Why the Bible as a basis?

· author: Thomas · reading time: ca. 6 min.

God has left us an “instruction manual” for life so that we can find Him. As Christians, we have a common foundation in the Bible, which we understand best when we look at the big picture.

When there is talk of a literal understanding of the Bible, many readers first think of religious fundamentalists who hold up posters with hate messages and reject the entire findings of modern science.

And I can’t even blame readers, because such misguided people do exist, and the media like to play them up as a threat, even though there are at least as many Christians who put the message of God’s love first.

In this article, I would like to briefly explain why I actually think that taking the Bible as a foundation is a reasonable position. And not simply out of tradition, because I would not know or accept anything else – on the contrary.

A supernatural message

At the beginning, I received a large part of my religious education in denominational religious education classes, and in my school days it was common for our teachers to take a position critical of the Bible.

Later, at university, I also had this experience: for example, Paul’s conversion, in which he encountered Jesus and his life radically changed for the better, was then devalued to a kind of “migraine attack with light phenomena”.

(Further reading: Acts 9:1-31; cf. Acts 22:1-22; Acts 26)

Many modern theologians trim the message of the Bible like a hedge, until it finally looks like a French garden, where everything is neatly arranged into a scientific worldview, and just not too much offensive supernatural remains.

I am sure that these theologians do this with the best intention of preserving the Christian message. In today’s world, shaped by the rational worldview of the Enlightenment, it is of course easier to bring people closer to faith if they do not have to question their scientific worldview in the process.

But I personally was not convinced by this view. If, for example, it is said that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but was only in a kind of coma after the crucifixion and was therefore able to rise again from the grave two days later, this ultimately calls into question the core of our faith.

If Jesus did not really rise again from real death, how could we Christians believe that he will also raise us again from death one day? With such reasoning, the biblical message is stripped of its power, and with it, from the hope of a supernatural Savior.

If we believe in an almighty God who created the world and who can bring the dead back to life, then we must also believe that, during certain events, He is able to overcome the laws of nature He created, even if it is “only” a matter of small miracles like the transformation of water into wine.

(Further reading: John 2:1-12; cf. Luke 16:10)

The way to the source

Many people know that I work in the IT industry. In our everyday work, we often find ourselves in the situation where a program behaves quite differently than one would expect. Sure – the experts are usually called when something goes wrong.

In such a situation, our first reflex is to call up the source code – that is, to look at the actual programming behind the surface to find out why the strange behavior is occurring, until we find an explanation.

In the same way, it makes sense to me to go back to the “source” when it comes to faith: When we encounter something in life that seems strange, or we don’t understand some aspect of faith, we find an answer in the Bible about how it was originally intended by the Creator.

Maybe you’re not into computer science – so here’s another, more general example: In English, there’s a great play on words where the word Bible is interpreted as an abbreviation: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” – in other words, something like an instruction manual for the life we live here on Earth.

This is also familiar from everyday life: The manufacturer of a household appliance or software, at least if it is a reputable manufacturer, will also include a manual with its product so that the user can operate the product smoothly and find a solution quickly if commonplace problems arise.

If we humans are able to give each other such instructions for operating our own inventions, shouldn’t God, who created us humans and means well with us, have left us a manual with which we can at least understand the points relevant to our current lives?

A common foundation

We are in the comfortable position of being able to pick up a Bible at any time, for example here on the Internet. But let’s assume for a moment that this would not be possible.

Now, if someone claimed that God told him we had to grab our noses and hop in circles three times to get to heaven, then no one would have the opportunity to verify if that was true. The example is silly, but in fact there are people who set up religious teachings and claim that they received them directly from God, an angel, the spirit of a deceased person, or something similar.

These teachings are not always as harmless as the example just given, and yet there are people who fall for them. Without a clear basis for evaluating such teachings, faith is lost in arbitrariness.

Let’s imagine three friends who have traveled to a foreign city. On a guided tour of the city, they get a tip about the best restaurant in town. In the evening they walk through the city center and try to find the restaurant again. But they don’t know their way around very well yet, and so they argue about whether they are on the right track. Nowadays, at least one of the three would then pull his cell phone out of his pocket and look up the way to the restaurant.

In the same way, I understand that with the Bible, God has given us a “navigation device,” so to speak, with which we as Christians can check whether we are still together on the way to our goal of spending eternity with Jesus in heaven.

Understanding the Bible

To understand the Bible better, what has helped me most is to change my perspective: First, when I read, I assume that God really wants to communicate something important to us through the text.

This does not mean taking every sentence of the Bible literally – even Jesus himself often spoke in images that were not meant literally – but rather taking the trusting attitude that there is a reason why certain things are formulated this way and not differently, even if I may not yet understand them.

With many “contradictory” passages in the Bible, there always seem to be two ways to interpret them: Focus on the differences or focus on the big picture. Take, for example, a detail from the accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion:

  1. About the criminals who were crucified along with Jesus, Mark 15:32 says that they both mocked Jesus. But in Luke 23:40 it says that one of them defended Jesus. Now, one might suspiciously claim that the two accounts contradict each other.
  2. If we look at both accounts together, trusting that there is a credible statement behind them, they complement each other: First, Jesus is mocked by both criminals. In the face of death, one of them comes to his senses and turns more and more to Jesus in the course of the crucifixion.

There are many websites and books that deal with the explanation of this and other apparent contradictions in the Bible, such as the article “102 Antworten auf 101 scheinbare Widersprüche in der Bibel” by Karl-Heinz Vanheiden (currently only available in German) or the book “Questions I have always wanted to ask” by Werner Gitt, which is now available in 21 languages, including English.

These explanations written by people are not the absolute truth, but they can be useful to discover the Bible anew. When one studies the Bible more closely in this way, it becomes apparent that the texts paint a picture that is coherent in itself, in which even events that are centuries apart are connected.