The Bible as Allegory

March 25, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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I’m going to start out by telling my readers (both of you) that this is probably not going to be post you think it is. Before we get started with all of that, it is important that you understand what an allegory is. Merriam-Webster defines an allegory as: “the expression of truths or generalizations about human existence by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions”. Dictionary.com defines an allegory as: “a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another.” In regards to the Bible, allegory is not something new. Many of the early church fathers took portions of scripture as allegorical and interpreted them as such. This should not be how we interpret the Bible, unless the scriptures call for that. Unless it’s clear that the scriptures are meant to be allegorical, then we should understand scripture as it’s presented (history, poetry, etc.).

These days, there are many “pastors” who will stand before their audiences and provide an allegorical presentation of an historical event or person. There are some stories/events/people that this happens to more often than others. For instance, David is a popular target for allegorizing, especially his battle with Goliath. When this historical event is allegorized, the listener is put in the place of David, the champion of God who is fighting for truth, justice and the Americ…uh, yeah. The listener replaces David as the hero of the story who will be victorious because they are definitely walking with the Lord. Goliath is replaced by whatever problem/issue/setback the hero is facing. It may be marital issues, it may be financial problems, or it may be drugs or alcohol or pornography. The specific problem really doesn’t matter, and the fact that this is vague and not specific only adds to its appeal because it allows the hearer to determine what the issue is that has become their Goliath.

Once this preliminary is set up, the pastor/cheerleader then proceeds to tell the hero that they need to stand strong in their faith in the face of their giant. They are told that they are to get their “five smooth stones” which is then interpreted to be their faith (5 stones…5 letters in faith, get it?). They’re to charge the enemy in the name of the Lord and trust that He will bring about victory in their lives. Not only that, but they still have 4 “stones” left to fight “Goliath’s” brothers. The hearers are whipped into a frenzy and encouraged to go out in the name of the Lord and fight in faith knowing that God has given them victory.  By the way, if my synopsis actually echoes a “pastor’s” message, it really is purely by coincidence…

This is done with a number of other events and people, usually all of them are in the Old Testament (unless it’s Jesus or a disciple). I’ve seen allegorization happen with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the walls of Jericho, Hezekiah’s prayer (Sun Stand Still anyone?), and even Jesus Himself. Allegorizing the text of scripture isn’t that hard, and it’s even easier when you don’t give a rip what God has actually said in His word. I’ve spent a little time explaining allegory because I’m about to tell you one, but it’s not about the Bible. It’s about “The Bible”.

Beginning on March 3rd, 2013, the History channel began broadcasting a 10 hour extravaganza produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. It is being shown for 2 hours at a time every Sunday until Easter. As I write this, they have shown 8 hours of the series. My purpose in this is not to critique the numerous theological problems with the series, although we will have to deal with some of them. I may do that later, although there are many others who have already begun to do this (see www.fightingforthefaith.com). My main point in this post is how this 10 hour series is actually a reflection of the state/condition of the American church.

Since the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost, it has faced persecution and infiltration of false teachers who make every effort to twist the truth of God into a man-centered set of doctrines that war against scripture. Throughout church history, men like Arias, Nestorius, Noetus/Sabellius, and others have started with their own traditions or beliefs and twisted the scriptures to make them fit those preconceived ideas. Sadly, two of these heresies still exist. Arianism, which denies the divinity of Jesus and says that He was a created being, is now known by its followers – the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sabellianism (also known as Modalism), denies the Trinity and says that each person of the Godhead is actually a manifestation of the same God. Basically, what this means is that God is only the Father, only the Son, or only the Spirit at any given time. He is not all three distinct, self-conscious egos at the same time. Modalism is usually put forth as follows: God was the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Spirit in regeneration. He is never all three at the same. The reason that I bring up Modalism is that one of the pastors consulted for the miniseries is T.D. Jakes who is a modalist (despite what James MacDonald or Mark Driscoll say). The fact that a known formal heretic could be considered as a consultant for the truth of the Biblical content in the miniseries is telling. Other consultants were Rick Warren (seeker-sensitive pastor of Saddleback church) and Joel Osteen (Word of Faith pastor of Lakewood Church).

These three men have no business being pastors much less consultants on a miniseries about the Bible. But if you know something about these men, some of the things that you see in “The Bible” will make more sense. For instance, Rick Warren is known for his book “The Purpose Driven Life” and for his P.E.A.C.E. plan. Warren is a seeker-sensitive pastor who pushes both purpose and changing the world in just about everything he does. So, when we see Peter asking Jesus, “What are we going to do?” and Jesus responds, “Change the world!” it’s not a big surprise. The fact that this wasn’t the reason Jesus came to earth doesn’t seem to matter. When we see the baptism of Jesus, there are things that are oddly missing. There is no dove (the Holy Spirit) descending on the Lord as He comes out of the water. There is no voice of God from heaven. Could this be because of T.D. Jakes and modalism? There is no mention of sin, repentance, hell, or judgment from either the OT or the NT. Is this due to Joel Osteen?

The things that “The Bible” producers have left out of their production speak just as loudly as the things that they’ve added to the scriptures. “The Bible” is a filled with the newest visual/special effects to portray the miracles of both the Old Testament and New Testament. It has an emotional (more on this later) score (as any movie should). It has everything that the summer blockbuster movies have to make them successful. But, it’s what it doesn’t have that makes this a tragedy. As I said above, this miniseries doesn’t have anything about sin, hell, or judgment. They left out the entire Levitical sacrificial system set up by God through Moses. This may not seem important to many, but the entire point of the Law is to point to Christ. People were given the Law to show them that they cannot keep it; that they need something or Someone greater than themselves to save them from the wrath of God regarding sin. They left out the building of the tabernacle and how everything was built according to God’s standards, and how it points to the Savior and what He did. Again, this may not seem important, but it is.

The reaction to the miniseries has been amazing to me, and very grieving. The handling of the precious Word of God by the producers (who are mystical Catholics) and their “consultants” is bad enough, but the reception by professing Christians and their defenses of it are disheartening. Add to this the numerous Christian ministries that have come out in support for the miniseries and it’s just plain pitiful. The many people who support this movie seem to be taking the same tack and using the same arguments. The main argument that I’ve seen is that the movie may not have everything correct, but it will cause people to pick up the REAL Bible and find out the truth. This movie is seen as some sort of evangelistic outreach to be used to bring people to the true, saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The foundational truths of the Christian faith aren’t as important as the perceived and ASSUMED results that this movie will have. This is pragmatism. This makes the ends more important than the means. The results are what we should be concerned with and how we get there doesn’t matter. This is not a scripturally sound way of looking at things.

As Christians, we have been given the God-breathed, inspired revelation of God and Christ. This is the only special revelation we have that reveals who God is. It was authored by God through the use of men over 1500 years. These 40 men were in different cultures, different times, on different continents, and were from different social statuses. And yet, there is a unity to the entirety of scripture; a “scarlet thread” of Christ that is pulled through the OT and culminates in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because the Bible is “God breathed” (theopneustos), it is our foundation of truth. For this reason, it should be the foundation of everything the Christian does and the lens through which we look at everything – EVERYTHING. This includes anything dealing with the Bible. If what is put forth on television or the big screen does not line up with what is found in the Bible (rightly divided) it is wrong.

And it is this that has become the major issue. It is becoming more and more apparent that many professing Christians claim the name of Christ but have no desire or ability to hold to that truth when it disagrees with what they already believe or if it makes them uncomfortable. The basis for the belief of these Christians is tradition, emotion, or a combination of the two. In other words, “everyone does what is right in his own eyes”. If something looks appealing, feels good, sounds great, or “speaks” to them, then it is ok. Like the emotional movie score or the Finney-esque altar call at the end of many services, emotion plays a big part in modern Christianity for most people. There is no longer an absolute truth for them. The authoritative commands of the Bible have been relegated to suggestions in favor of things that fit within a theology of their own making. If their god’s focus is love in exclusion to justice, judgment, and hell, then the parts of the Bible that talk about those things are ignored or (in the most atrocious cases) removed because they would be in opposition to their already-held beliefs and might convict them of sin and unrighteousness.

This is what we see in “The Bible”. The reasons behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t given and the entire story was rewritten in order to make it more palatable for today’s society. Then, the angels were buffed up and turned into ninjas in order to appeal to the short attention span and worldly leanings of the main movie-going audience. If this were the only instance it would be bad enough, but it’s not. David is another glaring instance of the ignorance or outright removal of scriptural integrity. The story of David, his adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah is shown with coldness and without the framework of the history of sin and its effects on man. When Nathan approaches David after his sins have been committed and confronts him, there is no repentance from David. There is no sorrow or remorse over his sin. Instead, David’s response is “We will see!” instead of “I have sinned against the Lord”. Why the change? Why didn’t they stick to the Bible and talk about sin? The lives of the “heroes” of the Bible aren’t shown as men who are tempted and sin. Instead, they’re presented as “failed leadership” or “mistakes” or “inability” but never SIN.

The damage that this does to the gospel is horrendous. The argument that this miniseries will bring people to Christ by allowing them to read the real stories in the Bible just adds to the evidence of biblical illiteracy. If the Christians promoting this view actually understood what the Bible says about man’s nature they wouldn’t hold this view. The Bible says that man is dead in his sins (Eph. 2:1). It says that he is not only unwilling to come to the light (John 3:19-21), he is unable to do so (John 6:44). The Bible says that the spiritual things of God are not able to be understood by the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14). So, knowing what the scriptures say, how can a natural man, who won’t come to the light, who can’t come to the Light, who cannot understand the spiritual implications of his sin apart from the Holy Spirit; how can this man possibly gain anything from the Bible or “The Bible”? He can’t. If “The Bible” were to explain sin, its effects, and its ultimate result (eternal damnation) then it might lead men to repent, but that won’t happen with the series as it is.

And, because of that, “The Bible” will do more damage than any good it might do. No one will hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and without that gospel, no one can be saved…

Your thoughts?

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