Over a number of weeks, we have been looking at a summary of the Christian faith. So where did such a summary come from? Well the answer is the Holy Bible.
The summary is drawn from the Bible but the Bible clothes the summary in rich content worth a lifetime of study.
The Bible is truly an amazing work and should be given our attention – 66 books written by 40 authors over 1500 years maintaining its cohesive story throughout. Three hundred prophesies in the Old Testament that refer specifically to the Christ, all of which came about as predicted.
That is amazing when you consider those prophesies were written by 20 different authors over 1000 years.
For the maths people, the probability of one person fulfilling just eight of these prophesies is one in 10 to the 17th power.
For the non-mathematical, that’s one in one hundred million billion. And Jesus fulfils not just eight, but 300.
The most stolen book...
With 2.5 billion to six billion copies in print, the Bible is the most circulated book, the most stolen book, the most criticised book and probably the least understood book.
Its own sixty-six books range in genre from poetry, songs and lamentations, to narratives, war stories and eyewitness accounts that are authored by kings, prophets, fishermen, murderers, a doctor and even a hated tax collector.
It has inspired great acts of charity and social reform, and been exploited by corrupt men and warmongers obsessed with power.
Between its covers are heroes, villains, Roman centurions, pharaohs, lepers, adulterers, forgiven men and freed women and if you look closely enough you will find yourself in its pages.
All this without an Oprah Book Club sticker on the front cover. Such has been the effect of the Bible it is impossible to truly understand English literature without reference to it.
Not freedom, but slavery...
When we lose the Bible from our attention we might be free from God’s thoughts but that has been an experiment that has come with failure in every age.
Between its covers are heroes, villains, Roman centurions, pharaohs, lepers, adulterers, forgiven men and freed women...
Far from freedom without God it has led to a slavery that is overindulged in the world but increasingly dissatisfied by that world. Meaninglessness and hopelessness point to a problem in human foundations that need to once more be addressed by the hearing of God’s Word to the world.
There was a time when Christians were accused of being wowsers, with too many “thou shalt nots…”, and yet the entire law of God can be summed up in these words: “Love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbour as yourself”.
The two go together and cannot be separated if they are going to work.
Who is in control?
As I read these two commands, I think the truth is that the wowsers lie elsewhere than in Christianity. If people won’t let God be in control then it is left to people to be in control.
But herein lies the problem for those people who can’t be trusted and who can’t trust!
You must continue to make more and even more laws to control each other.
One measure of a godless nation is the proliferation of laws to keep its people in control. Proliferation of laws point to the struggle people have in loving their neighbours as themselves.
And that piece of information suggests getting God back in the picture sooner rather than later is crucial to our survival.
The answer is love
It needs to be admitted that the Bible is full of rules but as you read the Bible, you realise that this is God’s accommodation to a people who fail to love God and their neighbours.
Love God more – you will love people more and you will need less laws.
Love God less and you will love others less and we will need more and more and more laws.
I will write more about the Bible’s perspective on life but there is no substitute to reading it yourself.
Bishop Rick Lewers leads the Diocese of Armidale.