Better Bible Study Tip #1: Ask The Hard Questions

The Bible is not just a normal book. It is the collection of God’s inspired writings. It is the authoritative source for the truths we hold and shows us which errors we should deny.

And yet the world is filled with people who oppose the Bible, criticize the Bible, and try to undermine it’s reliability. These Bible critics often raise hard questions. “Why does God command genocide of the Canaanites? How can we say that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, when the book of Genesis tells of things that happened long before his birth, and the book of Deuteronomy tells of things that happened after his death? Did the author of Genesis actually intend to write historical facts, or did he intend it to be understood as allegory? Did Isaiah really write the whole book of Isaiah? Did Daniel really write Daniel? Did Paul really write the letters we traditionally ascribe to him? Why do the four gospels seem to contradict themselves at several points? Didn’t the Biblical authors simply reflect the values of their cultures? Why should we view their writings as authoritative? How did we end up with these specific 66 books? How do we know these books are inspired, and others aren’t? How do we know the Bible hasn’t been corrupted over time? Why do different manuscripts read differently from each other?”

The questions go on and on. Of course some questions are easier to respond to than others. But sometimes, we come across some really good questions. Sometimes WE might even be the ones who think of the hard questions.

In a world filled with Bible deniers and Bible critics, sometimes hard questions can make us flinch. Is it okay to question the Bible? What if I find a hard question, and I can’t find a satisfactory answer? What if my question causes me to stumble in my faith?

When we start to question the process of asking questions, we need to remember something very important: questioning the Bible is not wrong. If there is a problem with questioning the Bible, the problem lies not in the questioning, but in the attitude of the questioner.

God welcomes sincere questions. Gideon asked an angel, “If the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us?” (Judg. 6:13). Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked how it would be possible for her to give birth to a child since she was a virgin (Lk. 1.34). Good questions deserve to be asked.

When Paul entered the Jewish synagogues, he “reasoned” with the people from the scriptures (Acts 17:2). Reasoning includes honest dialogue with people who ask hard questions. The Christians in Berea were praised because they were eagerly “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That means they were going to the scriptures with questions.

The Bible has been fulfilling its role as God’s inspired word for thousands of years. The Bible has faced numerous critics who have asked the most difficult questions man can think of. And yet the Bible is still here. It hasn’t gone away. Truth is not going away. Truth is truth. Truth isn’t afraid of questions. Those who love truth should embrace the process of asking questions.

Of course it can be possible to question the Bible in an unhealthy way. Sometimes questions are asked, not because the questioners are honestly seeking to learn truth, but rather because they have the goal of undermining God’s authority. This is what Satan did with his question when he asked Eve “Did God really say that?” (Gen. 3:1). Sometimes questions are asked simply because people love stirring up controversy. That’s also an unhealthy approach to questions (1 Tim. 6:3-4). But the problem in unhealthy questions is not in the questions themselves, but rather in the attitude of the questioner.

The Bible is God’s word. There is no reason for us to embrace irrational beliefs. Rational faith necessitates honest questions and rational answers. Approaching Scripture without asking the hard questions does not lead to a rational understanding of scripture. Intellectual laziness is not a virtue. So go ahead. Ask hard questions. The Bible can take it.

Every word of God proves true;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Proverbs 30:5