The Bible is a book that sits on many of our shelves. It’s often cited by politicians. But is it just a mythological tale with good lessons – or something else?
Last Sunday we tried to talk about the question, “Is there a God”. You probably remember the conclusion we came to. The existence of a God of some kind is the most plausible and the most satisfactory explanation of the existence of our world, the existence of ourselves, the order and design of the universe and the presence in us of conscience and a sense of moral obligation to live better than we’re doing.
In other words, we came to the same conclusion as that great giant of our own age, Einstein, who said, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit, who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” We felt, yes, Einstein is right. If you let your mind work in an ordinary cause and effect kind of logical way, the way it normally operates in everyday life, then you’ll conclude that there is a supreme being of some kind.
Most of us agree with that. I think most people in the world feel deep down the same way as, of all people, even Mao Tse Tung. Most people feel even like Mao that there is somewhere a supreme being to whom we will have to give account after this life is over.
Where we differ is what that supreme being is like. That’s where we have trouble. Most of us believe there is a supreme being of some kind, but in a way you must agree that’s not the big issue. Because if that supreme being is a cruel tyrant then that will greatly affect the way we live in this life. If that supreme being is a kindly father that will affect greatly the way we live in this life.
So the big issue is not so much, is there a God — because it’s very hard to explain the universe apart from that. But the real question is, what is He like? What is the supreme being like? I’d ask you to look with me at some of the information that our forefathers down through the centuries have passed on to us, about their experiences of the supreme being.
Here’s one that was written in 900 B.C. It’s one of the most ancient books we have. Here is part of what this person says about the supreme being. “Zeus now addressed the immortals. What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings, worse than any which destiny allots them.”
So that person obviously said in 900 B.C., God – Zeus — talks to some other gods and says, “Why do men blame us for all the misfortunes that they suffer?” He laments that fact. You know what your reaction is. You say, “Wait a minute, that may be one of the oldest Greek books that we have available, it may have been written in 900 B.C. but this is “The Odyssey” by Homer. Homer was not describing anything real when he wrote “The Odyssey”.
It’s in fact a novel about the wanderings of Odysseus after the sack of Troy. Homer certainly has taken a basic history but he has then added to it myths and imaginary stories of all kinds. Certainly by reading Homer’s “Odyssey”, you can find out what he and his contemporaries thought the supreme being was like. You can tell what his people and his friends thought, but you can’t say that he was describing facts. All he was doing was giving his idea of what the supreme being might be like through the words of Odysseus.
In other words, it’s foolishness to take what is a novel and treat it as if it is actual fact. Of course all we have here in books like Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ are the author’s own imaginary ideas of what God is like.