Hey there gang,
Ready for something new? Like, 66 installations of something new? Last year I spent hours and hours and hours reading 10 or more books a month in order to bring you Books We Love. It was enjoyable as a personal exercise and even introduced me to one of the authors who I was highlighting.
This latest effort is something completely different. “AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.” I plan to work my way through the Bible and write at least 1,000 words on each book of the Bible. We’ll be starting in Genesis and working our way through to Revelation. All 66 books. Woah. Not sure I’m up for it now that I’m putting it that way!
So why this idea? There is a fellow who attempted to do exactly this on his blog Hey Guys Its The Bible back in 2008. Here’s how he described his project:
“On this site, I will be writing at least 1000 words on every book of the Bible. I’d give you more information, but when I get to Leviticus I’ll need to kill some words (Spoiler alert: It’s really fucking boring), so it’ll have to wait until then. The site should update three times a week, twice with Bible posts and once with an off-topic thing.
“Who is writing this anyway, you might be asking but probably not. I’m just a dude who doesn’t believe in God and who has never read the Bible. I started the site because I realized that if I think religion is bullshit and I go around saying that religion is bullshit, I should really check all the holy books I can find to make sure I’m right. I mean, if they’re true – boy will my face be red!
“Don’t expect that to happen.”
Clever eh? An atheist reads the Bible from front to back and talks about it as he goes. I got into it anyway. Loved hearing his thoughts. And I have always wanted to do a blog or two interviewing an Atheist about their views on a capital G God in a very non-confrontational way. (I’m still interested in doing it if you happen to be reading this and are an Atheist that doesn’t mind answering a few random questions honestly.)
The only glitch? The “Hey Guys It’s the Bible” blog petered out around Haggai. And that was that. But I have always wanted to do a response to this blog. The more I have thought about it the more I’ve reveled in the idea. Of reading the entirety of the Bible with an Atheist perspective in mind. I am not interested in creating a theologically profound companion reading guide. Or even come to any enormously new insights about the Bible. I just want to read it and comment on it from an unbelievers vantage in order to challenge myself and those that are reading. The point is, that you don’t need to be a Christian to read this series as it unfolds. To be honest, my hope is to engage with those that don’t believe as apposed to those that do. And where I’m missing it, feel free to call me out. Dialog is definitely appreciated as indicated by this particular thread.
THE BIBLE EXPERIMENT GENESIS
So let’s kick this epic series off. This first post will be Genesis obviously, and my comments will be directed towards this particular blog post over on “Hey Guys Its The Bible”. Though you don’t have to read that (or even Genesis for that matter) to get the gist.
It’s the Bible Genesis and Creation Stories
Let’s kick this entire Sixtysix post effort off with some truly controversial juju going on. Because that is just how I hope to roll with this effort. This is an hour long video created by Rob Bell, the pastor who recently got in trouble for hinting that he doesn’t necessarily believe in Hell . And yet, this video of his about the Genesis Poem in Genesis 1 is the absolutely perfect way to start this thing off.
(please let me know if the video gets taken down so I can fix it for you.)
Summary: Where everything is created, and then subsequently destroyed by flood. Wherein God creates an agreement between Himself and Noah’s descendants, Abraham and Isaac. Wherein all manner of craziness ensues and Abraham’s descendants find themselves in Egypt basically ruling the place after saving the Egyptians from a world wide drought.
Problems: Only a few problems. Heheh, like the creation of everything, the introduction of the moral conundrum facing everyone today, a wrathful God that destroys everyone on the planet save one family, and the introduction of sacrifices as temporary covering for sin.
Let’s be perfectly frank here… a ton of stuff happens in Genesis. I could spend a thousand words just writing about chapter one – the Creation Poem as Rob Bell calls it in the video above. But, in an effort to be somewhat readable, and responsive to my predecessor, I will attempt to be brief. Ok, if not brief, I will attempt to not write a book. Fair enough?
As I read Genesis, I am reminded of the point of the entire Bible as I see it. And it is fairly simple. The Bible (as messed up and crazy as it is – believe you me, we will get into the craziness soon enough) is one big enormous love letter to you from the God who created everything. Big bang? Yeah, the entity powerful enough to cause the Big Bang to happen… he loves you. So much so he intervened on your behalf to save us all from ourselves. This is all setup here in Genesis for us. Every last detail.
No? If you personally think the Bible is a crock – you obviously disagree. But have you considered this possibility?
First there was nothing. Then there was something. If you watched the Rob Bell video above you will see that he does an amazing job walking us through the creation story and the details around that. Don’t believe in a literal 7 days (how can one have a literal seven day creation story before there was an earth to spin, or a sun to show time?) I don’t personally care one way or the other. Long earth, Short earth? I’ll be frank, I am sans opinion on this point. Billions of years for star light to travel to earth, so the earth must be old old? Ok, fine by me. The bigger question here for me is why exactly did God create earth in the first place? What is the bigger story happening here? What is the point of it all?
We’ll get more of this story as we progress, but I would submit to you that the point of it all (and by all I mean, Life, the Universe, and Everything, to steal a Douglas Adams refrain) is that the God of everything is fullon intent on chasing you down. That he is intent on having a relationship with you. And that this God of the universe, the Creator, wants you to know just how much He loves you. That He wants to restore you to Himself. And this begins with Genesis and the creation story.
“It just doesn’t jive”, I hear you saying. This “God who loves me” also is the same God that only a few chapters into the Bible also destroys everything with a flood. (As a side note, it is interesting that there is a new movie coming out about Noah and the flood with Russel Crowe and a pile of other enormous actors.) And here is where things get hung up normally for people who are casually reading the Old Testament. God is perfect. And there is no part of Him that can tolerate sin. White paint is white, until a drop of black gets dripped into it. And then, by definition, it is no longer white, but some other shade of offwhite, no? So the Bible is a documentation of this relationship between a perfect God and a very very flawed creation.
Here’s the cool bit. Even though we are flawed and screwed up and are really good at creating genocides and atrocities a million… even though, here in Genesis we receive an escape valve from out of nowhere. Genesis is the description of both the problem and also the solution to our own innate sinfulness and willfulness.
And we see the first signs of it not with the creation of the covenant between God and Abraham but in the midst of the creation story at the very beginning of Genesis. After Adam and Eve at from the Tree of knowledge of good and evil, God says:
And I will put enmity, Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Eh? He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel? This is the first reference in the Bible to the coming Messiah that would finally provide away of safety from the current chaos of sin. Here in Genesis 3 we see the first hint of the future way out. And it isn’t until Genesis 15 that Abraham and the Israelites (to be) are given the covenant under which the concept of sacrifices in order to temporarily deal with sin until the one true sacrifice comes is given.
So we get this concept of prophecy rolling here in the third Chapter of the Book. I’m sure you don’t necessarily agree that that quote refers to Jesus. And that’s fine. But there are over 2500 prophecies in the Old testament. 2000 have come true so far. Over 500 are about things that are yet to come. (We’ll get into those in detail as I march through Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation I’m sure.) And more importantly, throughout the Old Testament there were over 300 prophecies concerning the Christ’s coming and his death that have come true. You can read the list of references here if you’d like. In his book Science Speaks, Dr. Peter Stoner estimated the odds of one person fulfilling just 48 of the hundreds of prophecies. He calculated the odds at 1 in 10 to the power of 157 . 157?! Let’s put that into perspective – 10 to the 100th power (or googol) is the estimated number of subatomic particles in the entire known universe. And that was just for 48 prophecies. Could our esteemed colleague Dr. Stoner been a little off? Sure. But it should be widely agreed that IF Jesus fulfilled hundreds and hundreds of prophecies in his birth, death and resurrection we should probably take a closer look at the evidence and the details throughout the Old Testament.
My Questions: I would be lying to you if I didn’t have things in Genesis that confuse me. If you are an atheist, or just someone that doesn’t buy what the Bible is selling you are screaming at the top of your lungs: Noah’s ARK?!? Or maybe you are yelling Creation much?! But I don’t personally have much a problem with all the animals getting on a single boat even though I don’t fully grasp it. I don’t have a problem with God wiping out 99.999% of the planet. We didn’t even deserve a second chance and he gave us one anyway with the sign of a rainbow.
My questions lean more towards the trickier meat of the theology behind even the Tree in the Garden of Eden. Was it a choice or was it forced? Was it inevitable that Adam and Eve would succumb? This has long reaching theological implications with the concept of free-will, choice and pre-election. Did God choose me, or did I choose Him? Do I have a role to play in this larger cosmic dance or am I watching it all play out? Personally I believe that I have a choice and that God has allowed us all to intentionally decide our position towards Him. I personally think it makes sense that God has given each person an opportunity to choose to relate or deny to Him. It just makes sense to me in the grand scheme of things. No?
Or how about a vengeful God that wiped out the planet in a flood. What is that about? I have ideas and opinions. But to be completely frank I really don’t understand this. Can a perfect God see things that I cannot? Sure. Could he understand that everyone on the planet is a complete Reprobate? Obviously. I think I understand, but I’ll admit that from a completely objective standpoint this is a difficult issue at best. But at the end of the day, do we all deserve to be wiped off the planet in one fell swoop? I definitely do. But maybe you are different than me, and you don’t? At the end of the day I know that I need a way out. I need a way to be able to be saved from myself. That’s all I know.
Let Me Explain, There Is Too Much, I’ll Sum Up: So Genesis is a story of love. Not just any love, but the greatest love story ever. Its a story about a lost love and eventually about the larger story of our eventual restoration through Christ. If you doubt that’s where its all going, just hang on for the ride as we move through the Old Testament all the way through to the back of the New Testament.
2. Science Speaks, by Peter W. Stoner. Copyright © 1958, 1963, 1968 by the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. (P. 333).