Monday, October 12, 2009
When the Bible is Silent
As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and He has put in there guiding principles for me to live my life by. I’m often amazed at how God uses the Bible to speak to me concerning a situation I’m dealing with, or a choice I have to make. Sometimes it’s a direct commandment, sometimes it’s a guiding principle, sometimes I have to discern what to do from the examples of other people’s lives recorded in the bible, sometimes it’s not my choice but my motives that I am reminded to examine. Several times I might have even made a decision and I just read the Bible to know if God approves or not.
But sometimes I know we face choices that the Bible is silent on. Perhaps it’s a situation that is peculiar to our modern society that did not exist in biblical times. Sometimes it’s a cultural thing, something that the Jewish people did not agree with, but it’s acceptable in our own culture. Sometimes the Bible doesn’t always give us the answers in black and white and we have to find other means of arriving at our own conclusions.
The other day, I was watching a TV programme about space travel. The scientists on the programme were talking about how much time and money has been spent by the US government on the Space Programme and how Russia, China and some other countries were also dedicating mind-boggling sums of money to space exploration so that they can claim territories on the moon and other planets. There was an argument afterwards as to why we human beings have not finished solving the problems we have on Earth, but we are going to space. Someone mentioned that if we dedicated a fraction of the amount of money we have spent on space travel to humanitarian causes, we can end world hunger and world poverty. So where does the bible stand on this? Should we be exploring other frontiers, or should we solve one problem before we go and look for more?
I was listening to the radio a few days ago and the speaker was talking about the choice between burial and cremation. Apparently some Christians have been torn between buying expensive land for burials and choosing cremation as a cheaper option. The bible is silent on this topic, but in biblical times, the Jews placed a big importance on burial. Meanwhile the Greeks, Romans and other cultures cremated their dead. The speaker was saying that if we were faced with such a choice today, will the Bible be a conclusive reference? Should we go by the Jewish culture or should we ignore that, especially now that the world is a crowded place and burial land is now at a premium?
Then there are other personal issues like whether or not to have children. The bible does say that we should “go forth and multiply” but nowadays there are more and more couples that make the decision not to have children for valid reasons. Should we say they are wrong? What about the genotype of your future partner, if you find out that you and your fiancée are both sickle-cell carriers? What about the choice between keeping a pregnancy that resulted from abuse or getting rid of it? What about the issue of a choice between staying in a bad marriage and opting for a divorce? What about culture versus Christianity on the issue of polygamy? (Yes there are some Christians that defend polygamy. I was shocked when I found some books and resources where some people argued that many of the great men in the bible were polygamous and God still blessed them). So if that was not God’s plan, why is the bible silent on such a major topic?
Sometimes the issue is not even that the bible is silent, but it seems to contradict itself. There are many passages that suggest the exact opposite of each other. We then have people split into factions, each side quoting the bible to support their stand. Many churches have been split up over issues that the bible does not have a clear answer, for example: female church leaders, polygamy, eating certain foods, what to do with church leaders that sin, and many more. These generate countless questions that we can debate for hours and years but ultimately we have to come to our own conclusions.
I feel that if I come across a question or a choice that the bible does not adequately address, I have to then go to God directly and ask Him what to do and what to believe. I know don’t have all the answers, I don’t have the full picture and I certainly can’t solve all of the world’s problems. I have one way of knowing if I’m taking the right step: peace. If I feel at peace with my decision, then I’m confident that I’m in God’s will. Now it’s not my place to impose my own view or my own choices on other people for what works for me is not necessarily what will work for everybody. Only God sees all and knows all. I’ll let Him be the judge.