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I recently received an e-mail from a preacher struggling with his faith. One of his main stumbling blocks is believing what he calls “the wild and impossible Bible stories.” Here are some questions which challenged his faith:
- “I can't believe a guy could live inside a whale for three days?”
- “I can't believe that a guy could build a boat, put in two of every species of life on the planet, and sail around for a long time?”
- “I can't believe God stopped the Earth from rotating to allow a battle to continue.”
These are the same challenges atheists have made against the Bible, but it is unusual for a preacher to raise these questions. So we need to make three points about these and other Bible stories.
1. Many times, people make invalid
assumptions about Bible stories.
An example of that is the flood of Genesis 6–8. The point of the story is clear. Humans rebelled against God, and God caused/allowed a catastrophe to wipe out those who rejected him. The Bible does not say the waters were level over the Earth and flooded uninhabited places. Questions about where the waters came from or where they went after the flood are a problem only if you assume the waters were level over the entire globe. The flood had natural causes and not miraculous ones.
2. The occurrence of unusual phenomena
does not discredit the biblical account.
For example, one of the “wild and impossible Bible stories” is found in Joshua 10:10–14, which says the Sun and Moon provided light for Joshua and his army to defeat the Amorites. If you assume that the Earth stopped rotating, that would have disastrous consequences for the whole planet. The passage’s context shows that various unusual astronomical things were going on. Verse 11 tells of great stones falling and killing people, perhaps hailstones. This is rare, but it can happen.
God could act to provide sunlight and moonlight to continue for the length of the battle. The Bible speaks in everyday, non-technical language describing this incident from the viewpoint of Joshua. Perhaps God provided a way to refract or reflect sunlight and moonlight to the battle scene. If only the Sun were involved, there would have been no need to mention the Moon in verse 12 (Joshua 10:12). Verse 14 (Joshua 10:14) tells us the event was most unusual and identifies it as God using a process.
3. God is capable of performing miracles.
If you do not believe he can, then you have to reject the resurrection of Christ. A few stories from the Bible are identified as miracles. The story of Jonah is a miracle of God equivalent to raising Lazarus from the dead. The Bible does not say that a whale swallowed Jonah. Jonah 1:17 tells us, “Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah.” That was a miracle, not a whale, shark, or plesiosaur.
Even if you reject all biblical miracles, not all Bible stories are miracles. A man killing another man with a stone and a sling is entirely possible and does not require a miracle. Rising from the dead after three days is not possible and has to be a miracle. You can reject it if you choose, but if God is God, he can perform miracles. That makes the resurrection of Christ a matter of faith. God acted miraculously in some biblical accounts, but in other cases, he used natural processes — even unusual ones. The so-called “wild and impossible Bible stories” are not a valid reason to discard the Bible as a collection of fairy tales.
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Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.