This past weekend I enjoyed quite the retreat to the mountains of North Georgia with some friends to celebrate to forthcoming nuptials of a young bachelor (AKA, I attended a bachelor party)! Over the course of the weekend we dinned on red meat, drank beer & whiskey, and smoked cigars; we were men and we did manly things! The weekend was a blast to say the least and a contributing factor was the richness of conversations held throughout. One of the great blessings I have found in enjoying fellowship with Christian brethren is the depth of conversation that rarely happens outside the fold of the church in modern society.
One such conversation occurred Saturday afternoon after several of us had finished lunch and were talking on the back deck. During the course of the conversation the groom-to-be asked a pointed question (no surprises if you know him!) that got me thinking. Put simply, the question he asked was, “What makes something ‘Biblical'”. The reason he brought this question up is really important. We have a tendency in Christian circles to speak of things as “biblical” or “unbiblical” with very few definitions as to what we mean. I myself am as guilty as the next person in using the term “Biblical” as a blanket statement to make either my assertions or counter-assertions irrefutable. I think that many people (myself included) need to give a little more pause as to what we think makes something “Biblical” or not and upon what grounds.
Saying this doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that some things are Biblical and other things aren’t. To the contrary I tend to believe that there are Biblical & non-Biblical ways to approach everything (economics, politics, education, family, etc). However, I think the broader discussion of what makes something Biblical vs non-Biblical would be advanced by giving more thought to what we mean by these terms instead of just asserting them ad hoc.
While I do not plan to undertake explaining what does make something Biblical in this post (for multiple reason, including a lack of knowledge on the subject) I would like to give an example of what I mean when I say something’s Biblical by way of an example I heard the other day. This example was not given to address this particular question but I want to use it here to help make my point.
The example I heard on a podcast was about the use of evidence in a legal trial. The speaker in the podcast was explaining how much of our current understanding of the legal process is borne out of legal principles found in the Biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The speaker was highlighting the importance of impartial judges, due process, and the importance of multiple witnesses. He explained how Jesus himself made a reference back to the necessity of multiple witnesses bringing forth specific charges when forming an accusation when He was being accused of blasphemy (John 18:19-24).
The speaker in the podcast spent a large portion of his talk explaining the importance of eye witnesses bringing forth specific accusations of wrongdoing before the accused and not just charges against someone’s character (i.e. – “Joe’s a liar!”). At this point someone raised a question about evidence. By evidence I mean something like DNA evidence or video evidence. The question was framed around the idea that because DNA and/or video evidence is not a human witness what grounds, based on the Bible’s idea of law, do we have in using such evidence in court. The speaker then replied that not human witnesses are used in the Bible as well (Genesis 38; Leviticus 18) and give precedent for the use of none human witnesses like DNA testing and video footage.
As he was explaining this it gave me pause to think about the way we describe things as “Biblical”. Is there anything in the Bible about the use of DNA or video footage as a “witness” when settling a civil dispute? No. But working outward from the Bible’s use of other “scientific” forms of witnesses (i.e. – staffs, clothing, etc.) we can say that it is “Biblical” to use modern forms of science (DNA) in legal cases.
As I said earlier, I do not have the understanding to give a full account of this subject. However, I did want to offer an example of how I believe things that do not appear in the Bible (the use of DNA as a witness in legal cases) can be understood as “Biblical”. I believe this same pattern can be used across the board on many subjects that we do not find in the Bible but can be understood as Biblical by the way Bible speaks about other things.
Food for thought.