Updated: May 10, 2022
God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged, Romans 3:4.
To judge the bible is to judge God. I have judged the bible and through doing so I have judged God. I have found him to be holy. I have found him to be trustworthy. I have found him to be good and his laws to be just. Not everyone who picks up a bible sees him that way. When I first introduce someone to the bible, I am ready for a number of reactions. Some people are moved by something in the Proverbs, and some are charmed by reading stories that they have heard about in their lives but never read. A significant number of them find the God of the Old Testament to be blood thirsty and abhorrent.
One of the problems with a King James Bible when seen through the eyes of the world is that it so eloquently and accurately describes the holy and just slaughter of entire populations. We condemn men who do such today. It is good to prepare a new reader to enter into an entirely different world. We live in a world where communication can be had instantly at any distance. In our world justice and protection can be had by making a simple phone call.
Miscreants can be held behind bars and humanely fed and sheltered while society ponders their fate. Personal safety and the protection of property are a national goal and reasonably provided for in most locales. When murders, theft or rape do happen, there is a reasonably good system to use modern forensics, swift communication and a continent wide government to apprehend the culprit and to protect people from him.
Imagine now that we had none of that. Imagine a time when a family man must carry a weapon on his person and be ready at any time to defend his family's life, honor or property. In William Forstchen's realistic novel, One Second After, he describes life in Western North Carolina after an EMT attack over the United States destroyed all electrical infrastructure including car engines built since the 1970's that rely on computers. Suddenly, the national government lost all contact with the country. No phone systems worked. There was no internet. There was no mass transportation.
Each and every community was stranded on its own with only such food as was stored or could be grown or hunted. Very quickly, people who relied on pharmaceuticals perished. Very quickly those without adequate food sought to take some from those who had much. Communities found themselves forming militias on the same level that they now form volunteer fire departments. A person who attacked an isolated home and killed the family after having raped the women and stolen their provisions would probably get clean away. When small groups of ruffians gathered together, the only recourse was to violently subdue them.
In real life I know of a small town magistrate who once had a drunk trouble maker shout into his house that he wanted revenge for what happened in court. The magistrate who is no stranger to fire arms called the police who quickly rounded the man up and deposited him behind bars for further reckoning. Imagine that magistrate's choices in a world without telephones and without fire arms. His only choice would have been to have met that man in open combat in his driveway or to have secured his home like a stockade.
How many people have the moral fiber to make the kind of decisions necessary to live in such a world? When should a man be given a second chance? When should a man be executed because he is prone to violence when loose? Forget jails. A small community capable of building a jail would quickly be overcome with the burden of keeping it humane and of feeding their prisoners. When I lived in Greece in the 1970s a prisoner did not expect the prison to feed him. If his family would not, he had to submit to be sodomized to stay alive and be fed.
Prisons in small isolated communities struggling against nature to feed their own are almost always vile. John Wesley discovered prisoners in small English jails who desired death over another year in their tiny cells. The England of John Wesley was far advanced in technology and education above the communities of 3000 BC. History is rich with the tales of inadequate prisons that primitive people constructed for their prisoners. The Black Hole of Calcutta is just one such tale.
The bible envisions no such inhumanity. I asked a question to a mild young man in my church who suffered greatly in his youth by being locked up with inner city youths in a 6 month detention. He had shoplifted and obviously needed some punishment, but he is a small slight young man unacquainted with fighting. Wouldn't it have been better to have been stripped to the waist in public, had his hands drawn up over his head and to have been beaten with a cane rod? He looked up when I asked him, thought about it for a moment and said, "Yes, it would have been far better".
Would it have been better for the Indians of North America if they had slaughtered every white man who landed in Massachusetts laden with small pox, and to have slaughtered every tribe that had interacted with them and burned all of the bodies and their possessions rather than to have had hundreds of thousands of Indians die of small pox? When the Lord sent a host to wipe out an entire village, did it ever occur to anyone that he may have seen more than we see?
If a person ever had to spend even a year in an environment like the Middle East millennia before Jesus Christ, they would clutch that bible to their breasts and pray that every person with whom they interacted guided their every action according to its precepts. The laws of the bible were written for a people devoid of technology and modern weapons. They were written at as time when prisoners were ceremonially tortured to death. Just read the accounts of the soldiers captured by the French and Indians during the failed Braddock campaign. Read what the Iroquois did to the Algonquin and Erie Indians that they captured as they systematically drove those tribes out of New York in the 16th and 17th centuries. If the Erie and Algonquin Indians had been forewarned by a sovereign God , would they have been unjust to have slaughtered that small Iroquois confederation before it ever left Ohio?
The truly great miracle of those laws given to Israel is that they were the foundational precepts of those nations in the 17th and 18th centuries that sought to establish national governments in nations that had outgrown small isolated communities in size and technology. To use an example, look at the 8th commandment; Thou shalt not steal, Exodus 20:15. That commandment is obvious in every culture though there are cultures that sanction stealing from other culture groups. When the English speaking people wrestled with the formation of just government, one great issue was whether a government could have power that an individual cannot have.
If a man cannot steal, can a government composed of men steal? To the English speaking people the answer was, no. For a government to tax people without their consent was tyranny since governments derived their power from the people. That government could not have any power that did not naturally reside in men as they would be found in a primitive or pre-technological community. Governments derive their power from the people. They do make it up out of whole cloth. Therefore, nations in which the people believed that they were created, and also believed that the bible is the final authority developed representative government.
It is no miracle that a group of embattled farmers fired at soldiers from the most powerful nation on earth at Lexington and Concord. Even as I write these words there are poor farmers throughout the world plotting to shoot at some government or another. The miracle is that those farmers had King James Bibles on their hearths and by their bedsteads. Those farmers knew the laws of God and by long practice had learned to adapt them to a just and honorable society. Those farmers pooled their common rights and powers which they had derived from the word of God, and formed a nation that the poor of the earth long for 250 years later.
Some inexperienced bible reader will complain about witch trials and slavery. They see such things in the early histories of bible believing societies and attribute them to a slavish devotion to an unjust barbaric bible. In the next post we will look at those matters. It was bible believing people who eradicated those evils. It did not come easily.