hard to believe

last night at ISM we were trying to emphasize one main point: "when we run from God, life gets messy". it was a fun night as it lended itself to some fun (and gross) elements. we played a game called 'sardine sliders' which has to be the most disgusting game i've ever done or seen. then we talked through the first half of the book of jonah, highlighting how messy his world got (and consequentially everyone else around him) while he was on the run from God.

as we described the story of jonah...i came to the realization of how hard it is to actually believe it literally occurred. i do believe it happened...i believe that all of the Bible is true and to be taken literally unless there's obvious clues that it's written in a figurative sense...but honestly if i was a skeptic, i'd have a hard time with...
  • the fact that jonah was asleep during this "perfect storm" (was he drugged???)
  • that some big fish just swallowed him whole as he floundered in the water
  • that he ended up in the fish's stomach...alive
  • that he just "hung out" inside there for 72 hours...and spent time praying in there too
  • that he didn't go through the rest of the fish's digestive system...or get eaten by something else that came down the fish's throat
  • that he got barfed up on the shore...and lived to tell about it all

seriously...if you're honest...it sounds like something that was made up by someone who was high. i'm sure there's scientific explanations for it...would really be curious to see them, etc. it's God's Word so i believe it...but wow - that one's a little tough. what other stories/passages are tough to believe?


Anonymous said...

What about the story of Jonah doesn't give you a great big obvious clue that it is intended figuratively? If it is so hard to believe, why force yourself to believe it is true and literal? You make your own best argument as to why this is obviously not a real event but figurative. You sound smart, so it's strange you would so consciously deny common sense. The Bible is not the word of God, it is the word of people who wrote the word, and even if it was God talking to them, why couldn't he have been teaching a figurative lesson? God gave us a brain for a reason, and one of its uses is to think critically. That would preclude just accepting something as true simply because it is represented in text in a book. I think those who go out of their way to convince themselves the Bible is literal miss the point, that this is a teaching book, from which to derive lessons and truth about the human condition and the proper path in life. Contemplating its literal truthfulness seems a distraction to the message it is trying to send. As an aside, if you believe the Bible completely and literally, do you really think people should be put to death for all the little trivial reasons the Book indicates?

Mr. Mitchell said...

The parting of the Red Sea is the story I have the hardest time comprehending, Cory. And there is no room to label that event figurative. Either it happened or it didn't.


Anonymous, you make a strong case that Jonah is just a story.

But the reality is that people who disagree with your claim, "The Bible is not the word of God," do struggle with these issues.

The trouble is, just saying something is so fantastic that it couldn't have happened eliminates the historical reality of Jesus' death and Resurrection. We believe this happened in fact, not just on paper.

Cory said...

I appreciate the comments and I like the dialogue. 

Jesus would often say things like: “…the kingdom of heaven will be like…” and then He’d go on to describe a story that his listeners could understand (matthew 25 is a good example). figurative language helps our minds comprehend the abstract. but that key word “like” gives the obvious clue that the reader is not to interpret the event as literally happening. Where those key words are absent, I believe the text is meant to be taken as 100% literal. I don’t see those key words in the story of jonah. and it’s nowhere in the parting of the red sea…or many of the other texts that are hard to understand.

I can still believe in the truth and authority of the Bible, even though I don’t understand every detail written in it… for me, I just can’t get past the hundreds of detailed prophesies that were written years and years before in obscurity and silence…and then they were flawlessly executed and fulfilled – every one of them. I can’t get past the creation story…that it is so much easier to believe in an all-powerful God who spoke the world into existence, as opposed to the world just “appearing” and morphing into what it is today after some big cosmic sneeze. For me I’m convinced that the Bible is the word of God…not the writings of man. but it doesn’t mean I don’t still wrestle with “the how”.

Anonymous, you said “As an aside, if you believe the Bible completely and literally, do you really think people should be put to death for all the little trivial reasons the Book indicates?”. Could you give me an example of a trivial reason?