In the introduction to the “Bible is Incomplete” category of posts on this website, I mentioned a Google search I did to determine something about the popularity of the phrase “he would have put it in the Bible” (which I searched inside the quotation marks, to find only returns with those exact words in that exact order). That search yielded 12,400,000 results, which shows us that a lot of people are talking about the idea that something can be determined about God, presumably, based upon “what he put in the Bible”.
Just to give you an idea what kinds of things people are saying while using this particular phrase, here are some excerpts from the first ten or so returns:
- If He cared then He would have put it in the Bible!
- If God wanted us to know about Carbon dating, He would have put it in the Bible…
- If that was what God wanted he would have put it in the Bible…
- If He thought it was something we needed an answer for, He would have put it in the Bible.
- If God wanted an Alzheimer’s clause to marriage, He would have put it in the Bible.
- …knowing that if God wanted there to be “gravity,” He would have put it in the Bible.
- If He cared then He would have put it in the Bible!
- If Jesus had wanted us to know more about this kind of spiritual warfare, He would have put it in the Bible and given us commands to do it.
- If God wanted it, He would have put it in the Bible.
- If God had meant for us to help the elderly, He would have put it in the Bible“. LOL!!!
As you can see, except for the tongue-in-cheek expression in the last instance, all these seem to be making some argument or other about judging what is important to God based upon what is found (or not) in the Bible. And if the rest of the 12.4 million hits are like these, I’d think it safe to say that a great many believers would argue, therefore, that “being in the Bible” equals “being important”, just as many of them seem to be suggesting that “not being in the Bible” equals “not being important”, or even “not being true”.
Now, that’s a huge can of worms, and I don’t intend to get into all that in this particular article. What I would like to point out, however, is a fairly simple matter of looking at the backside of this “He would have put it in the Bible” coin. When you flip it over—that is, this idea that if something were really important to God, he would have put it in there—then what message do we get about what does appear in the Bible?
For everyone who lauds, say, John 3:16, is there also someone lauding, say, Numbers 2:6? (No, I have no idea what Numbers 2:6 says, for I don’t have it memorized, but it’s interesting to note that [“John 3:16”] gets 27,200,000 hits at Google while [“Numbers 2:6”] gets only 827,000!) For everyone whose Bible study keeps “going back to Genesis”, does it also keep “going back to Jude”? Or for every one who is drawn to the red letters, is there someone else who just can’t get enough of the black letters?
No, I’m sure this is not the case. Indeed, practically all Christians prefer the “New Testament” over the “Old Testament”. The search for [“New Testament”] at Google yields 47,600,000 returns, while the search for [“Old Testament”] yields 31,100,000. Thus do we see that there seems to be about 54% more discussion about the “New” than the “Old”, yet the running presumption is that God put both in the Bible! Similarly, most prefer to devotionalize from the Sermon on the Mount than from the Olivet Discourse, and who doesn’t somehow think that Ephesians is a more beneficial read than Lamentations?
But why do we think this way? If we believe that “God put Ephesians in the Bible“, do we not also believe that he put Lamentations in the Bible, too? How, then, do we magnify the one so far over the other? And how is it that we take pains to memorize verses from the one, and not from the other?
Indeed, this odd behavior is most likely behind the great doctrinal carelessness of this generation. To point out an example that may by now be a tired one for regular readers of this website, even a church that teaches that the resurrection of the dead in Christ is yet to come and that the dead are still waiting in Hades, will confidently proclaim at Sister Betty Lou’s funeral that their faithful sister has now “gone to be with Jesus” and is sitting in Heaven, looking down upon her own funeral.
Both cannot be true at the same time, of course, except in the minds of those who simply are not paying attention to the details. And so it is with the Bible study of most. They don’t notice, for example, that they, on the one hand, speak of “the kingdom” as being “the church”, while they speak of it on the other hand as being “heaven”. Thus are they both in the kingdom and awaiting the kingdom at the same time! Similarly, they probably never noticed that they, themselves, are always talking about being “saved” (past tense), when the Bible almost always mentions it in the future tense. Nor do they notice that Jesus said that nothing would pass from the Law of Moses until “all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18), and yet in Acts 10 and 11, we definitely see both the law about eating with Gentiles and the law about eating forbidden foods being repealed by none other than God himself. (Thus can we determine that the fulfillment Jesus was referring to had happened in the interim.)
They don’t notice these things because, contrary to what they might say from time to time, they don’t really believe that everything in the Bible is important. Otherwise, they would study it as if the details are worthy of acknowledgement, analysis, and even memorization.
I once scoffed at a certain contemporary author who referred to the Bible as a “puzzle”. In my view at the time, the Bible was fairly simple to understand. I now see, however, that this was because I was not trying at the time to understand all of it! Having since set that very goal for myself, however, I now view it as a “puzzle” myself! Not that it was intended for mere entertainment, but that it requires the same attention to detail that a good puzzle does.
One of my friends says that not everybody’s intellect is built for a puzzle on such a grand scale. I’m hesitant to agree with him, but I will certainly go so far as to admit the obvious—that not everybody’s habits are built for such a puzzle. Certainly, there is not one mentally healthy person on the planet who could not do considerably better with understanding the contents of the Bible merely by increasing his or her efforts!
But before you give in to the temptation to pass off your own scholarly shortcomings to your genetic makeup, I want you to do a simple exercise for me. Imagine a person flipping slowly through the pages of the Bible with a black magic marker and marking out the sections that he or she does not consider to be important. If you’re like most, you probably scoff at the audacity that would be required for an individual to make such judgments about a book that is believed to have originated in the mind of God.
We would never take the black marker to the book! No, it would be a sacrilege and an outrage!
If so, do we perceive any sacrilege and outrage in our consistent habits of merely ignoring the passages we do not find compelling?
Perhaps we take this argument to the next level. That is, perhaps, rather than saying, “If God had wanted me to understand about this, he would have put it in the Bible”, we are saying “If God had wanted me to understand about this, he would have put it in the Bible more times than he did”!
Perhaps some day soon, I’ll have opportunity to make a list of Bible facts that are generally considered to be “important” AND that are mentioned only once in the Bible. That would certainly be interesting. (There are several examples of this, I believe.)
Indeed, even the immensely-popular words of John 3:16 only appear together once in the Bible. (“God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.“) In no other passage is this sentence quoted. Nor do we find in any other passage the words “God”, “loved”, and “world” used together. But this doesn’t stop anyone from quoting it as an authoritative message from God.
Why, then, is the world not also awash with people quoting, “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”? (Matthew 16:18) They do not quote it because they do not think it’s important.
What I don’t understand is how people can consider themselves to be serious Bible students when they don’t try to figure out the meaning and importance of such a large portion of the Bible texts. To me, it seems a simple and natural part of student-ship to be curious, not only about what it all means, but also about how it is to be understood in the “big picture”.
To me, incuriosity is a sure sign of a lazy, deficient, or even corrupt mental state. For others, however, such an idea as that isn’t even worth considering for a moment. And why not? Because if God had wanted people to be mindful of an idea like that, he would have put it in the Bible, of course!