King James Cosmology

5a
Why is the Bible Sometimes Ambiguous?


A Reason for Ambiguity

From the beginning of the treatise we mentioned how certain accounts in the Scriptures are ambiguous, obscure, and somewhat vague. Of course, this is by design. Concerning our topic, the creation account is in some ways obscure and indistinct; the descriptions of the heavenly bodies are partial and inexplicit; plus the motions of the same bodies are described from a worldly and human perspective. Instead of using clear and precise terms and descriptions of what He has created and how creation behaves, the Lord has spoken primarily in ambiguous generalities. Why is this?

Modern believers, even BB, can't seem to keep from judging or evaluating everything, including the Scriptures, by the measure of their own knowledge and revelation. We examined how both natural and moral truths were revealed to man progressively: a little at a time. Not only were relatively unimportant matters like creation and the motions of the heavenly bodies ambiguous, even critical doctrines like salvation and redemption were revealed piecemeal. Even Jesus Christ's very own disciples did not know the actual reason He came to earth (Matt 16:22). They thought His primary purpose was to become the King of Israel, but we now know His first coming was to purchase man's redemption: to "seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).

One key reason the Lord was ambiguous with some of His words was since He was determined to reveal many truths progressively, He could not be specific with details He was not ready to yet reveal. In Genesis chapter 1 the Lord just gives a skeleton account of his six days of creation. He does not explain HOW He created anything or detail the motions or inner workings of any created thing, whether animate or inanimate. He does not explain the motions of the heavenly bodies any more than He explains the workings of the human body. He simply states that HE created everything that exists and then moves on. It wasn't until over 4000 years later that the Lord revealed it was specifically the 2nd person of the Godhead, the Word, who was the person who actually did the creating (John 1:3).

The ingenuity of the Lord's account of creation and other physical processes (like the flood) is in how it does not contradict any truth He would allow man to discover throughout the coming ages. The Lord knew man would one day realize the earth was not flat, and so He was careful to not say anything in His Scriptures that would dogmatically declare it was flat. It was not important to Him whether the people He was speaking to at the time thought the earth was flat or not. He allowed them to believe something that was not actually true because it served His purpose, and He had not made a definitive statement about it either way. His words accommodated belief in a flat earth but they did not REQUIRE a flat earth.

The same can be said concerning Geocentrism. The Lord knew the initial tendency of man would be to believe the earth was stationary and the heavenly bodies moved above it. This was the natural conclusion of people on earth trying to assess their situation. He also knew that over the centuries and millennia He would allow man to discover more about His creation, including observations that challenge man's previous beliefs. As we detailed in a previous chapter, it took over 5500 of the 6000 years of recorded history for man to conclude the earth was not fixed in place and actually moved around the sun. And as with the flat earth belief, the Lord allowed man to believe the earth was motionless and His words in the Scriptures accommodated that belief without explicitly requiring it.

Thus, the reason for the Bible's ambiguity is it allows the Scriptures to accommodate believers of all ages who have varying degrees of revelation.

Is the Bible Yea, Nay, or No Comment?

The understanding of this ambiguity reveals an interesting truth from the Scriptures: they simply do not make any definitive statements concerning ANY cosmological system! Does the Bible in anyplace absolutely state that the earth is flat? No. Does it state the earth is round or a globe? No. Does it anywhere dogmatically proclaim the earth is stationary and motionless? No. Does it unequivocally demand that the sun and stars move around the earth? No. The simple fact is the Bible does not take a position on these things. Not the shape of the earth, not the "cosmology" of the sun and stars, and not what circles or orbits what. And since it does not make any specific and dogmatic statements, neither does it disallow any of these cosmological models!

Geocentrism is not "wrong" according to the Scriptures, but neither is Heliocentrism. A flat earth is the most compatible with the Bible's terminology, but a global earth is by no means disallowed. A "firm" sky or "firmament" is in no way rejected by the Scriptures, but neither is an "atmosphere" or "space." The Scriptures accommodate all positions. Who knows, the Heliocentric system adhered to by nearly all today may still not be the best representation of reality. The Lord may reveal some other natural facts in the future that may put Heliocentrism on its head. Nevertheless, again, the simple and clear fact is the Scriptures do not make any definitive statements concerning ANY cosmological system! Now "put that in your pipe and smoke it"!

The only dogmatic statement we can make on this issue is the Bible does NOT make any dogmatic statements on this issue

Other Areas of Ambiguity

Not only is the Bible ambiguous concerning physical things, it is also quite vague concerning many spiritual matters. Take for instance a person's soul and spirit. What exactly is the difference between them according to the Scriptures? What exactly is a spirit and how does it interact with a soul? We know they are divisible (Heb 4:12), but exactly how? Each person has a soul but what precisely is it? Ask a dozen "scholars" and you will get a dozen answers. The Bible give us very few details about the soul and spirit yet they are the most important parts of our being! We know they exist and are real, but what they really are and how they work is not revealed. The spirit is likened to wind or air (John 3), and the soul is known as the immaterial part of man. But is not the spirit immaterial as well? Some of the ideas we have today about these unseen things may be as "off the mark" as man's past views of the seen or physical things.

Another area of possibly even more ambiguity is the Bible's references to time, eternity, eternal life, everlasting life, and the like. What do we really know about eternity as apposed to time? Essentially nothing. The Bible doesn't explain eternity at all and basically refers to time in the linear fashion we all experience. What does it mean when the Bible says God "inhabiteth eternity" (Isa 57:15)? No one really knows. Yes, some have fancy ideas about time and eternity like saying eternity is an eternal "now," but they didn't get that from the Scriptures. Most of the ideas people have about eternity came from the Greek philosophers.

Possibly, in some way the Lord may reveal more about these unseen, unknown, spiritual things in much the same way he revealed more of the workings of the visible, material part of creation. Thus in a similar way the current vagueness would have served its purpose: allowing the Scriptures to accommodate believers of all ages who have varying degrees of revelation.

Ambiguity Accommodates the Faith of All Generations

As we have detailed above the key reason for the Bible's ambiguity on various "scientific" subjects is it allows the Scriptures to accommodate believers of all ages who have varying degrees of revelation. The Geocentrist will often say in this regard, "Why didn't the Lord just start off in Genesis saying the earth was spinning and the sun, moon, and heavens were not and be done with it?" The answer is "Who knows?" Yes, he could have said that if He wanted, but apparently He doesn't much care about such things at the moment. Actually, the Lord did not reveal anything new of the physical reality to the Old Testament saints that they did not already learn by observation or know previously unless it was for judgment as in Noah's case (told of then unknown rain/flood). Just imagine what it would be like if the Lord wrote a chapter that revealed and explained a bunch of scientific truths no one knew? It would be fascinating and wonderful for believers, but many wouldn't believe them unless "science" came to agree also. Nevertheless, if science later confirmed a truth first revealed in the Scriptures, then that would PROVE the author of the Scriptures was God (or at least a more knowledgeable being).

To the natural man this would seem like the perfect method for God to reveal Himself: just reveal some provable facts man does not yet know and that would prove He is there, but there are multiple reasons why the Lord may not want this to happen. One is it would pretty much destroy faith. Hebrews 11:3 says,
"Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
The Lord has His program with man so wrapped up in faith that He didn't even reveal enough physical truths to conclusively prove creation! Supernatural creation MUST be believed by faith. Many Christian scientists would like to be able to prove absolutely that God created creation, but they can't. God Himself restricted His revelation to hinder those proofs. He wants people to believe Him for what He says and promises by faith, not for what He can show them or physically do for them! Remember all the huge crowds Jesus could assemble when He was feeding them with "free" food? They could SEE something supernatural occur, but they were only in it for their belly. When the food stopped they left (John 6:66).

Since God's whole program with humanity revolves around faith, if he had revealed that the earth spins and revolves around the sun (if that is what it does) then the revelation would have been counter to unaided human observation and could have brought untold complication and confusion to His agenda of faith in His word. Therefore, instead of revealing unknown physical facts, He simply revealed what man could accommodate at the time and let the future generations adapt. His program had much more important objectives to accomplish.

Another reason the Lord may not have wanted to reveal certain physical truths at or near the beginning would be to keep man from exploiting them. Remember at the tower of Babel where the Lord said, "and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do"? Maybe once certain physical facts were confirmed, man would use them to build their one world "New World Order" long before God wanted. Nevertheless, God did not reveal any physical truths in His word beyond the knowledge of those He directly spoke with or to, and to claim that He should have is extremely conceited and presumptuous.

Divine Accommodation

"Divine Accommodation" is an often misunderstood term. Some may use it to explain away practically every truth in the Bible by claiming the Lord is essentially speaking in the Bible in an allegorical manner: nothing should be taken literally. Of course, this is nonsense. "Divine Accommodation" simply means,
"it is the theological principle that God, while being in His nature unknowable and unreachable, has nevertheless communicated with humanity in a way which humans can understand and respond to."
Or to make it even simpler, man cannot know anything about God unless God reveals Himself to him in a manner he can receive and understand. In essence God's revelation (both natural and spiritual) is the "accommodation of Divine truths to human minds."

Essentially everything God does to reveal Himself is an accommodation. We mere humans cannot comprehend the infinite, so God gave us a revelation using something He created man to utilizeŚwords. Does the triune God of eternity need words to communicate with Himself? Hardly, but man needs them and thus the Lord made them and uses them to relay information to him, and as a result we have the God given Scriptures.

Even the creation account is an accommodation. Does it take an infinite, omnipotent God six days to create the heavens and earth? Of course not, but He did it in six days to show man various things He wanted revealed.  As we detailed in an earlier chapter God further accommodated man by describing Himself as having traits of men, i.e. "arms," "hands," "face," etc, so man could identify with Him. However, the greatest accommodation by far and the one closest to God's heart was His very own incarnation to become a man Himself! He "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phi 2:7). He actually came in the "likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom 8:3). That is the epitome of accommodation and condescention: God becomes the very thing He wants to communicate with and reveal Himself to. Jesus said, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9) thus with Christ man can see precisely what God is like (Heb 1:3). Paul even suggests that believers today should follow God's lead and accommodate other people for the sake of the gospel. He said,
"To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 
Nevertheless, there is a limit to to divine accommodation. Some contend God will even accommodate man to the point of confirming as true something that man believes which is not true. This is completely false. The Bible is clear, God "cannot lie." The veracity of God and His Scriptures is a constant theme in the Bible and if God would somehow violate this principle, it would impugn His integrity and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures themselves. However, as we have seen, using figures of speech and relative language is NOT deceptive or untrue. The Scriptures use them all the time. Terms like "sunrise," "sunset," and even the rain falling "down" (Job 36:27, etc.) is all relative, perspective language that is perfectly acceptable and even used between members of the Godhead.