It doesn’t take an end to end reading of the bible to realise that it’s filled with lots of seemingly random statements, contradictions and things that just don’t make sense. For instance, we are told that as Lot and his family fled from the burning city of Sodom, Lot’s wife looked back at the city and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:1-26). Huh? Now don’t get me wrong here. It’s not the supernatural nature of the act of becoming salt, that I have a problem with. As one who believes in God, I do believe that nothing is indeed impossible with Him, as the scriptures say (Luke 1:37). What troubles me is the fact that no reason is given for why she became salt. The statement just seems so very random.
Now I know that the angels that led them out of Sodom, admonished them not to look back as they fled. As such, in looking back, Lot’s wife acted in direct disobedience to the instructions that were given to them by the angels. Does it mean then that her becoming salt was just God punishing her for her disobedience? Is that what we are supposed to take away from the story? And if it is, doesn’t that stand as a stark contradiction to the loving, caring and merciful nature that the scripture is working so tirelessly to portray God as? I mean, we are talking about the same God that stated that He desires mercy rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 12:7) right? A God that said that He loved the world so much, and desired to see the lives of it’s inhabitants saved, that He sent His very own son to show them the way to this salvation. Will such a God, without prior warning, suddenly take the life of a beloved wife and mother, simply because she disobeyed a word not to look back? Surely, given the nature of the circumstance, a God of love and mercy that is intent on saving lives, would have overlooked her disobedience. I mean, this is the same God that said that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) right? Surely He would have understood the pain and loss that she would have felt as she realised that the life that she worked so hard to build, was now up in smoke, leaving them as homeless wanderers once again. Note that we are not talking about someone that was about to murder an innocent bystander here. We are talking about a wife and mother who simply looked back. It just doesn’t add up. And even if it was because of disobedience, why salt? Why didn’t He just stop her heart, or make her trip and bump her head or something like that? What point was He trying to make by using salt? Again, it just doesn’t add up.
This is just one of the many accounts of scripture that don’t make any sense when one really sits down to think about it. As another example, consider this. Jesus called the sons of God peacemakers when He said the following:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
Then in another place, He stated that He, the first begottenof God, did not come to bring peace, when He said the following:
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ (Matthew 10:34-36)
Did Jesus just contradict Himself here with these words? Hebrews 12:14 tells us that we should “Pursue peace withpeople”. Yet here, Jesus is telling us that He came to tear families apart. How do we resolve this and all the other seeming contradictions that we find in the bible?
Now some will say that God is God and we are just men. So it’s not in our place to ask such questions. That, however, is not what the scriptures say. We are told the following in scripture:
You do not have . You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
What we are looking for here are answers, and these words are telling us that the reason why we don’t have them, is because we are not asking for them. And when we do ask, the reason why we don’t receive them is because our agenda is selfish. This shows me that God does indeed want us to ask questions. Remember, this is the same God that said that…
Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7)
His people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)
Will a God that is so bent on us growing in knowledge, wisdom and understanding, discourage us from asking Him questions? Absolutely not. Rather, He has told us not to be afraid to come boldly before His throne of grace. Why? So that we can receive the grace necessary to help us understand, in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). What He doesn’t want, however, is for us to come asking with a selfish agenda. If the reason why we are asking these questions is because we simply want to discredit Him, for instance, then we can expect to receive nothing because no matter what He says, we will not be satisfied until our agenda is met.
So then, what is my agenda for asking these questions? Is it because I want to discredit the notion of God? Absolutely not. I am a firm believer in not just God, but in the fact that God is the absolute embodiment of love (1 John 4:8). The reason why I’m asking these questions is because as someone who wants to accurately reflect the love of God to others, I need to have answers to these questions. Without knowing the answers to them, I face the danger of misrepresenting His nature to others. You see, whatever I believe in my heart about God, is what will be reflected in my words and actions toward others (Proverbs 23:7). For instance, if I believe that Lot’s wife was turned into salt because of her disobedience, and that the act was justified regardless of the circumstance, then I too will not be willing to show any mercy whenever I’m confronting an act of disobedience. The circumstance will not matter to me. All that will matter is that the person pay the penalty of their actions. Similarly, if I believe that it’s ok for families to be torn apart for the sake of ‘doctrine’, then I will go about sharing my spiritual beliefs in a manner that does not have any regard for peace. And when necessary, I may even be willing to take up arms (or aas Jesus said) for what I consider to be a ‘just cause’ as governed by my doctrinal beliefs.
We are literally what we eat (doctrine wise that is…). Think about it. Many of the worst atrocities against life were committed in the name of christianity and of God. Think of all the ‘holy wars’ and acts of terrorism (yes terrorism) that were committed because people believed (as per their understanding of God’s word) that God was in full support of them committing these acts. As ‘modern day’ christians, we tend to think that the worst of this sort of behaviour is now behind us. If asked, most of us would say that we would never be so deceived as to overzealously harm anyone in the name of God. Yet the truth is that as long as we cannot answer the question as to why it is that God would not be in favour of such acts, especially when His word seems to suggest otherwise, we will still be liable to commit the ‘modern day’ equivalent of these atrocities. For instance, though we may be totally against physically killing someone over a difference of doctrinal opinion, we would still be more than happy to publicly assassinate their character over the same difference of opinion. Remember that the scriptures tell us the following about God:
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
By making the point to tell us that God is Spirit as opposed to being a natural being, we are being told to see Him as having a spiritual perspective and agenda rather than a natural one. This makes Him more concerned about the spirit that is behind the act, than the act itself. You see, the spirit behind the act is the real driving force of the act. If the spirit was not present, the act would not be committed in the first place. Because of this, God views any problem that manifests in the physical as a problem that is really with one’s spirit. Now the spirit that is behind the act of physically killing someone over a difference of doctrinal opinion, is the same spirit of murderous misguided zeal that is behind the act of assassinating someones character over the same difference of opinion. Of the latter, we would simply say that the individual was killed ‘IN SPIRIT’ (or in principle) rather than in actuality. The only thing that is different between the two scenarios, is the perspective that the offending spirit is being applied to. Because the modern day perspective has the benefit of hindsight where these atrocities that were physically committed in God’s name are concerned, the manifestation of the offending spirit today is less physical, due to it being kept in check by the lessons learned from the same experiences. This spirit, however, is still present today and manifesting itself in more subtle ways that are equally as severe in God’s eyes. For where we see the act of assassinating ones character as being a less severe form of killing than the act of physically killing someone, God simply just sees that the spirit of misguided zeal was manifested to the unfortunate detriment of someone that He desired to save. After all, this is the same God that said that…
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ (or empty-head) shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
With these words, we have confirmation that God does indeed view the act of assassinating ones character, as being spiritually equivalent to the act of physically murdering someone: For it’s the same murderous spirit that is behind both acts, and it’s this spirit that He has the real issue with. So we should not think that we are meeting God’s standard of righteousness, simply because we are not physically killing anyone in a misguided attempt to please Him. And neither should we think that it’s far from us to commit such atrocities in His name. For as long as there is disharmony in the beliefs about God that we are feeding our spirits, there will also be disharmony (or the spirit of disharmony rather) in our spirits. And as long as the spirit of disharmony is present within us, we will not be able to help but be the agents of disharmony in the world, whether we like it or not. It’s for this reason that I seek resolutions to all the things in scripture that my spirit is simply unable to be at peace with. Remember that it’s not God’s desire for us to be robbed of inner peace by His word. His word is the word of peace. Of His word, we are told that…
The wisdom that is from above is first pure (i.e., infallible), then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17-18)
As such, if our spirits cannot receive His word in peace, or if His word is causing us not to manifest peace to others, then it means that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. The question is where? Where are things going wrong? Does the problem lie with God? Absolutely not. If we truly believe that God is all-wise and all-knowing, then we would have to also believe that He would not waste words. We would have to believe that everything that He said, He said for a reason. In that case, maybe the problem then lies with the men that He spoke His word through. After all, as men, we are definitely prone to error and misunderstanding right? Well it’s indeed true that as men, we are prone to error and misunderstanding. The problem, however, cannot be with the men that God chose to speak through. Why? Because we are told of God’s word that the…
prophesy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)
all Scripture has been inspired by the very Spirit of God Himself, it therefore becomes profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So we have to also believe that the Holy Spirit is more than capable enough to ensure that what He intended to say, would be accurately conveyed by the men whom He chose to speak through. After all, this Spirit is God Himself and as we know, there is nothing that God is incapable of doing (Luke 1:37).
Now if the problem is not with God, and it’s not with the men whom He chose to speak through? Then it leaves only one other option: Us. It means then that the problem does not lie with the word itself, but with the way that we are interpreting the word. You see, there are two primary ways in which words can be interpreted. You can either take them literally, or you can look behind them to see the moral or lesson that they are hiding. Where the account of Lot’s wife is concerned, for example, we were interpreting those words literally and doing so left us confused. The scriptures tell us, however, that “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). As such, if interpreting His words in a literal manner is resulting in us becoming confused, then the only thing that it can mean is that we are not meant to take those words literally. Instead, what we are supposed to do is see those words as hiding a spiritual truth or lesson that we are meant to unearth, sort of like a fable or parable.
Now would God actually do this? Would He inspire words whose sole purpose it is to hide the real truth, as opposed to them being taken literally? Well according to the following verse of scripture, the answer is an unequivocal yes.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (Proverbs 25:2)
Remember that we are told in scripture that Jesus only ever spoke in parables when speaking in public:
And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.” (Mark 4:33-34)
Well, guess what. The same Spirit that was in Jesus driving Him to never speak without a parable, is also the same Spirit that inspired all of scripture (2 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16). So it should not be surprising to learn that all of scripture (and not just the words of Jesus) has been filled with parables. God has been speaking in parables from the very beginning of scripture. As we have seen, it’s in His very nature to do so (Proverbs 25:2). Jesus, in being the physical manifestation of God, simply just revealed this aspect of His nature to us. Why? So that we will be able to use this understanding to make light of the scripture. Note that we are also told the following in scripture:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to . (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
By stating that men shall turn away from sound doctrine and be turned aside to fables, we are being told, by proxy, that…
God’s word contains fables.
And what are fables? Fables are fictional short stories with animals and mythical creatures as characters, whose purpose it is to convey a moral or lesson. Thus, we have another confirmation that we are not meant to take everything that we read in the bible literally. Now you may have read this passage before and thought that in referring to fables, it was referring to stories that were made up by men, rather than stories that are actually in the bible. This, however, cannot be the case. Why? Because regarding the fables that the men were turned aside to, we are told the following:
Rebuke them sharply (speaking of men here), that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to and commandments of men who turn from the truth. (Titus 1:13-14)
Note that like the previous passage, not only is this passage centered around the need fordoctrine, but it’s also about men being turned unto fables by other men who have turned away from the truth. The difference with this passage, however, is that it calls the fables ‘Jewish fables’. And by doing so, it’s telling us that the fables that it’s referring to are faith based stories (specifically that of the jewish faith) that have been handed down from generation to generation. In other words, it’s talking about fables that have been RECORDED in the sacred books of the Jewish people, as opposed to fables that are just made up on the spot by men. In fact, this passage even makes a distinction between the two when it refers to that which originates from man, as the ‘commandments of men’.
Now we know that the old testament is made up of writings that were taken from the sacred books of the Jewish people. Based on this passage that we have read, we can then conclude that the bible (or at least the old testament of it) is indeed filled with fables. This again confirms that we are not supposed to take all of it as literal truth.
In fact, when you think about it, the story that features Lot’s wife becoming salt, is more likely to be a fable. Why? Because it’s only in fables that fantastically impossible things happen. As fables are never meant to be taken literally, you find that they often feature events that are magical or ‘fantastically impossible’ in nature (as I would say). Note, that I’m not referring to the act of Lot’s wife becoming salt, when I refer to the fantastically impossible. Though the act is naturally impossible (which, by the way, is also a sign that the account is hiding a truth, as we shall see later), it is yet supernaturally possible. Why? Because nothing is impossible with God. What I’m instead seeing as fantastically impossible, is the fact that God will be slow to show mercy. That’s what’s fantastically impossible. It’s only in a fairy tale that a God of love who desires mercy rather than sacrifice, due to greatly wanting to save lives, would then without prior warning, take the life of a beloved mother and wife, simply because she disobeyed an admonition not to look back. By this alone, we know that the story cannot be literally true.
I mean, think about it for a second. Both of the passages that we just read, stated that those that will bear fables as doctrine, are those that have turned away from sound truth. What truth are these passages referring to? It’s none other than the truth that states that God in being nothing short of love itself (1 John 4:8), cannot help but possess a deeply seated love for mankind, that drives Him to want to see the lives of every man saved, at all cost. Any word that says otherwise, is a fable.
It’s not a coincidence that the most commonly cited verse of the bible is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
This single statement sums up everything that God is about. Is it then surprising that it’s the one verse that almost everyone can quote by heart? No it’s not surprising at all. It’s by design. You see, at the heart of every fable, is a reasoning that clearly contradicts this truth about God’s loving desire to save all of mankind. This is in fact the primary way that you can identify whether or not a particular word is a fable. Take the account of Lot’s wife becoming salt, as an example. To believe that this really happened, you would have to actually turn away from the sound reasoning that states that God in being love itself, cannot help but desire only life for every man. You would have to turn away from this sound way of seeing things, to instead believe that a God of love that desires only to save lives, would then take a beloved life for no apparent reason, other than because of disobedience to a word not to look back. Both forms of reasoning are at odd ends of each other. They cannot stand side by side. It’s just not possible. As such, you would have to literally turn away from one, to be able to see things the other way. This is what the passage is referring to when it says that men will turn away from sound reasoning, and be turnedto (or to the side of) fables (with fables being statements that just cannot logically stand side by side with that which is sound).
God is emphasising here, the importance of actually taking the time to consider whether or not the things that we are believing about Him, are logically. Note that this is something that we should not take for granted. We should not think that it will always be easy to spot logic that is unsound, and neither should we think that everything that we currently believe about Him is logically sound. Rather, our attitude should always be one of watchfulness, understanding that it’s indeed possible for unsound logic to creep in (and to have crept in) unbeknownst to us. After all, no one will willingly believe in a fable right? If the scriptures state that there will be those that end up believing in fables rather than in sound logic, it most likely means that this unsound logic crept in unawares through a back door. For no one in their right mind would willingly allow themselves to be robbed of their soundness of mind. Christ told us the following:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2)
With these words, we have confirmation that it’s indeed possible for the doctrine of thieves to creep in unawares through a means other than the front door, with an intent to rob us of our soundness of reasoning. For this reason, we have been told to…
Beware of false prophets, who come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Note that one of the things that the metaphor of wolves coming to us in Sheeps clothing is representative of, is unsound logic creeping in cloaked as sound logic. So we should not think that it’s impossible for unsound logic to slip past our radar. Neither should we be so confident about what we think we know, that we become closed minded to hearing things that seem foreign to us, or that invalidates something that we previously thought was sound. For having such an attitude will cause us to miss out on opportunities for our spiritual outlook and perspective, to be both blessed and cleansed by sound truth. The following verses sum up the attitude that we should have when appraising doctrine:
If anyone thinks that he knows anything, he does not know yet as he ought to know. (1 Corinthians 8:2)
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)
For He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13)
So Test all things; and hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Simply put, our attitude should always be one of humility, watchfulness and open mindedness, whenever we are appraising doctrinal logic. Added to this, we should always be asking ourselves the question “Is this sound? Is this in line with a God of love that cannot help but desire only to save lives?”. And if as part of our appraisal, it becomes evident that we were previously believing in something unsound, then we must be willing to do the honourable thing, which is to either lay down or correct that unsound belief for the sake of God and others. Remember, it’s what we believe about God, that we will manifest to others. If we believe in something that’s contrary to the notion of a God that is love, we will also act in ways that are not loving toward others.
People of God, it’s all for love. Every word that God has ever spoken, has been for the sake of love. Every law, every prophecy and every psalm, exists solely to promote love. Every proverb and every revelation has been sent for one purpose and that purpose is this: Love. For God so loved the world that He sent forth His word not that men might perish as a result of it, but that men might be able to live forever by reason of it. So whenever you encounter a word that is urging you in some way or the other not to manifest love, or that is painting God to be anything other than the very embodiment of love, then know that you have encountered a fable. Not a lie, but a fable (i.e., a story that is hiding the real truth within it’s moral). It does not matter if those words are stories from the old testament or advice from the very mouth of Jesus. If those words are appearing somehow not to promote God’s agenda to bring peace and love to mankind, then it means that those words were not meant to be taken literally. Rather, you should treat those words as fables or parables that need to be reinterpreted to reveal the real truth that it’s hiding underneath. And like Jacob who wrestled with God’s messenger, and didn’t let up until he received a blessing from Him (Genesis 32:22-32 ), we too should be prepared to wrestle with God’s message and not ease up until we receive the blessed testimony of love that it was sent to deliver to us. This is our lot as the people of God.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a . (2 Timothy 1:7)
So let’s do that. Let’s lift the veil off of the story of Lot to see what God is really saying with it. For as we have identified, the story can be none other than a fable.