The Bible explains things. It explains the really big questions of life like where we came from, what we need in life and what can make us truly happy. It tells of where our society is headed and what the future holds. It transcends the sometimes mundane concerns of everyday life and lets us see the big picture as it speaks of God and of man, and of the relationship between them. And it does so in a way which is powerful, credible, and comprehensive; for many this world-view which it presents, this explanatory power of the Bible (in the face of alternatives like humanism, materialism or blind chance) is one of the strongest arguments for its authenticity.
How shall we explain the world, in all its size, its complexity, its beauty, its intricacy? Where did it come from? How credible is it to claim that it occurred by chance? Where did the elements come from to have allowed the Big Bang in the first place (if we are reduced to purely mechanistic and materialistic explanations of everything)? Does randomness seem more likely than design? Is it mere coincidence that we should be here on this planet that seems so perfectly adapted to our existence?
These are all massive questions, against which the Bible has something concise and compelling to say. We are not here randomly, but because God is here, operating at a level beyond the purely material and mechanical, and beyond the explanations of man. We are here because He has a purpose for us and for the world that He has made. Our planet feels to us as though it ought to have a purpose, and the Bible explains that this is indeed the case. Life is only random and pointless when God is left out of the picture.
The Human Conundrum
But let’s go beyond those first level of questions about origins and creation to think more about ourselves. How is human nature to be explained? What theory, whether sociological, psychological, or theological, can best account for it? For we are utterly a riddle. How can it be that human beings have such capacity for kindness and for self-sacrifice, yet are capable of such atrocities that it is painful to even imagine them? How can it be? How can there be a Hitler and a Mother Teresa, made of the same stuff? What is it of which we are made that presents such a dichotomy? How can it be that our history is littered with examples of criminals, torturers and despots? How can it be that despite our obvious superior abilities to the animals, we have done so much to destroy our environment and put our world in danger?
These things are terribly difficult to explain by purely naturalistic means. Yet the Bible’s view is both simple and profound (in contradistinction to many other major religious traditions in the world which do not treat the problem of human evil in nearly as systematic a way). We have this dichotomy of good and evil because God has given us free will. On the one hand, as creatures originally made ‘in the image of God’, it is no wonder that we are capable of acts of goodness, that we have the capacity to give and to sacrifice. (Why should we take pity on the weak and helpless, the aged and the infirm under an evolutionary framework – isn’t it supposed to be every man for himself and only the strongest that survive? We should be glad that the sub-par weaklings are making more space for the strong.)
But for all the human potential to the positive we also have this enormous problem of selfishness and sin. We are in the image of Adam as well as the image of God, and we follow in his footsteps of rebelling against God by putting self before Him – and by thinking that we (rather than God) know what’s best for us. We may not be murderers or rapists, but latent within us is the power to be impatient, to be self-seeking, to be angry, to be cruel.
We are more than the animals, in our potential and in our abilities. In that sense we are the pinnacle of God’s creation, and the Bible explains why and how we are different from them. It is a fundamental difference, not that we are just a small further step down an evolutionary path. It’s because of God’s higher purpose with us that we have emotional, spiritual, moral, aesthetic and artistic capabilities (many of which may not be much use or may be difficult to explain under an evolutionary framework), With all these capacities that set us apart, it is no wonder that we are outraged by death. It is no wonder that we should long for more and have a sense and a seeking for eternity which seems beyond our grasp.
And yet, by our corruption and sinfulness, our fate is no better than the animals.
Now all this fits perfectly with the explanation provided in the Bible. We have the potential; we need to use it. We need to get back in tune with God, realize that something is wrong, and strive by God’s mercy to put it right. He has done what is necessary for that to be an option, after all. It must be the world’s greatest irony that we have such faculties, and yet often bend our energies to such pointless and even evil pursuits.
Unlocking the Potential
Many people live their lives with a sense of emptiness, a feeling that there must be more to life than what seems to them to be so pointless about life. Why do we feel like that? Why is that gnawing ache there at all – that sense that there must be something more? Could it be that God has built us that way, so that we have the potential to awaken to His call and respond to Him? Why is it that, unlike the animals, humans seem to have a spiritual need in their lives? The ‘So What?’ about the Bible is that it provides the explanation for all this.
There have been periods in history when we have tried to deny or banish our sense of spiritual need and longing, to satisfy ourselves purely with the pursuit of materialism – but it is never enough. The emptiness remains. How can you explain that aspect of the human condition? Isn’t the Bible’s explanation compelling – that we feel like this because we are estranged from God and need to get back with Him again. We lack a sense of purpose because we have forgotten our purpose – to be creatures in relation to Him rather than living purely for ourselves. Instead, we may often find ‘Me’ sat firmly in the center of the universe, and then find that life is unsatisfying.
Human beings have a sense of morality from somewhere, even a sense of the spiritual and the divine, But it is untrained, latent, undefined. It is a potential waiting to be unlocked. The Bible explains how this can be accomplished, because it explains the human condition compellingly and concisely, and explains what should be done about it.
This is the explanatory power of the Bible. It explains our world – where it came from and where it is going. And it explains our condition (as human beings) and our role in the world. It explains that if we so choose, we can take life from the meaningless and mundane onto another level. It explains that we can find purpose and fulfillment by aligning ourselves to God’s purpose and the purpose of the world which He created.