A few days ago I was watching on preacher/pastor being interviewed in a TV program. They were talking about different stuff; politics, church history, the bible and so on. Then after some time into the interview the presenter said something that made me alert, he made a statement and followed it with a question. He said ‘I went to catholic school and so I studied the bible and I also studied with some Jehovah witnesses and I always thought that the bible stories were to be taken literally, but as I grew up I realized that most of the stories are just there to give us a moral lesson, it’s not like those things really happened’, then he asked the preacher ‘do you believe that Jonah was in the belly of a fish for three days?’. The preacher man answered very plainly ‘I don’t believe Jonah was in the belly of a giant fish for three days’. I was surprised, I expectedhim to explain why he believed that but that’s all that he said and they moved on to another topic.
I want to try and shed some light on this issue, Are bible stories to be taken literally? For you this might not be an issue, you believe all stories in the bible are historical, they happened and there is not much to talk about here. But if you speak to people about Jesus sooner or later this question will come up. I would have really loved if the preacher in the interview could have given laid out the criteria by which he would call one story in the bible real and another ‘just for a moral lesson’. The problem is this; when you don’t have clear criteria then there are no limits. I can as well say that if Jonah didn’t spend three days inside a fish then Moses didn’t part the red sea with his rod or David didn’t kill Goliath with one stone or Abraham didn’t really take Isaac up the mountain to sacrifice him. Without criteria where do I stop? I can say all these are just stories for a moral lesson, they did not ‘really happen’.
I can even take it a little further; virgin birth, Jesus walking on water, Jesus turning water into wine. Now it becomes really serious. There has to be clear criteria by which we can categorize these stories, and I believe that criteria can only be given by the author. And it has, it’s very clear in the bible where we have dreams, visions, parables, sayings and where we have stories, real life stories with real people. The author has made that very clear.
One of the reasons why we could doubt a bible story could be because we want to hear something that would justify what we want to believe in. There is a kind of new age belief that tends to reduce bible stories to mere moral lessons so that the person wouldn’t have to take it very seriously. I feel like that is what the TV presenter was looking for, something to make him feel that he is right, and getting that answer from pastor, ‘really helped’. You see if you know that Jesus was real and he did all the things written in the gospels then the next question would be what do u do with that fact, you have to act on it, either accept it and believe in Him or reject him. But if u can reduce it to just another moral lesson, you create a hurdle for yourself to jump.
Another reason for this would be that we are looking at God with man eyes. Anyone can only claim to be a god if he can do stuff that gods do. If we believe in a living, all knowing, all powerful God then He should be able to do stuff that we cannot do, or that sometimes our human minds can’t just grasp. God can put Jonah in the whale’s belly, God can part the red sea, God can walk on water, God can calm the storm, God can heal, God can raise people from the dead, God can die and resurrect, and God can exist in three entities (trinity). God can do exceedingly abundantly more than I can think or imagine. Why? Because He is God. That’s God stuff.
When we reduce his works to mere ‘moral lesson stories’, we are in essence attacking His character. Sounds like what happened at the Garden of Eden. Did God really say that? In this case, did God really do that?
Friends, we don’t have the power to categorize bible stories, only the author does that. When we study the bible it becomes very clear to which category the stories they fall; parables, sayings, dreams, visions, true life stories and so on. Otherwise we bring God’s character to question, justify our own choices and limit what God can do in our lives.
Thanks for reading, stay blessed.