Theological Thoughts 

Why Parables? Written by Jeff Warrick

In Matthew 13:1-17 Jesus tells the parable of the sower. Afterwards, the disciples ask Him why He speaks in parables? A good question, why not talk in plain language? Jesus answers, “The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.' With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: 'You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn-- and I would heal them.'

I believe that what Jesus is saying is that He wants dedicated disciples, not casual, somewhat interested, or nominal disciples.  To follow Christ and truly call Him Lord means to dig in and try earnestly to understand what He is saying and doing as He asks.  As Jesus points out, many people have stopped looking and listening and no amount of explanation or proclamation of the word of God will catch their attention.

So, parables are a great vehicle for Jesus’ messages.   They are at the same time both simple and profound.  For those who desire to learn about the Kingdom of God, parables shine a light of insight into the Kingdom and seem never exhausted of meaning. But for those whose minds are closed, the parables remain nothing but quaint stories. Calvin notes, in regards to this passage in Matthew, “The word of God in its own nature is always bright, but its light is choked by the darkness of men.” It has been said the Gospel is an “open secret.” Indeed, Jesus stands ready to heal and to shed light on our darkness.  Jesus asks us to dive into His magnificent ocean and not simply be content to stick a toe in just to test the water.  Once we dive in we never fully plumb the depths of God’s Word in this life, but our faith grows deeper and the Scriptures are opened up as we walk with God.

Is the Bible Reliable

Written by Jeff Warrick

"Is the Bible reliable?” This is a weighty question. We ought to consider that if we conclude our Scriptures are basically unreliable, we do not have much of a consistent foundation to understand our faith. If on the other hand, we conclude the Scriptures are reliably the Word of God written, then it moves us to approach them with care to gain an understanding of who God is and how we should live for God.

In the first place, many archaeological studies have confirmed historical reports in the Bible. For example, critics doubted the account of Daniel 5, which mentions a Babylonian King named Belshazzar since archaeological records had shown that Nabonidus was king at the time. Yet, in 1956, stone slabs were found which showed that while Nabonidus went off to war, he entrusted the kingdom to his son, Crown Prince Belshazzar. Certainly, one could purchase any number of books on Biblical archaeology to satisfy themselves of its general historical accuracy. It is interesting that many would not think of challenging the history reported in say Herodotus: The History, which tells of military endeavors of the Greeks including the heroic battles near Athens at Marathon (about 490 BC). This is even though only 8 ancient copies exist, with the earliest being from about A.D. 900. The Bible on the other hand is attested by thousands of ancient manuscripts. OT manuscripts go back to before the time of Jesus, and NT manuscripts and fragments go back to about AD 110.

Another challenge is to the copying accuracy of the Biblical texts. Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940's, the oldest copy of any OT writings were the Masoretic Texts dated to around 900 AD. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, a complete copy of Isaiah was found, dating to 125 BC. This provided an opportunity to judge the copying accuracy of the OT since it would be easily seen which errors crept in over 1000 years! The documents proved to be stunningly identical textually. The small fraction of discrepancies were mainly misspellings and did not constitute a threat to the content or reliability of the text.

But, one could argue this only shows that the Bible may be a great history book, which was accurately transmitted over the years. What about the miracles? And since Scripture itself claims to be given by inspiration of God (2 Tim.3:16), and given Jesus commends the authenticity of the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44 for example) perhaps it is fair that critics hold it to a far higher standard of scrutiny than other documents.

There are some, who will question the reliability of the Bible as the Word of God simply because they do not like the teachings, but others are just naturally skeptical, others are atheistic, and yet others will claim other books as God’s words. I believe one of the strongest proofs for the authenticity of the Holy Bible as the Word of God is the power it has to transform lives. In the process of determining what books were and were not Holy Scripture this was a key element. The book must have the power of God and its application must produce godly transformation in believers. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, . . . , and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Also, from a purely logical perspective, in the 1st Century Palestine context, the disciples getting together and cooking up and dying for a story about a Messiah who gets killed on the cross and comes back to life and ascends into heaven would be the craziest plan that could ever be put forth. The cross was a symbol of nearly unspeakable shame in the Roman world of the time. Yet, this event which in 1 Cor 1:23, Paul calls a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles transformed the world. The writings of the Bible came about while many eyewitnesses were still alive and Christianity would never have taken off if they could simply say it never happened or point out that Jesus’ grave was down at 1st and A St.

In the end I do not know if there is a surefire way to prove the Scriptures to a skeptic or doubter outside of God working in their hearts. I certainly believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God and are my rule for faith and life. As Paul puts it, (1 Corinthians 1:18) “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”