Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I guess we all know a moaner.

One of those people who has an infallibly negative outlook on everything, and is forever thinking the future through to disastrously doom-laden certainties.

Heck, some of us even write Doctor Who reviews.

Ecclesiastes has been baffling Bible-readers for millennia. “Why the heck was this included?” Oh, we can positively think around it and come up with a few reasons though. Like:

1. To prove that God understands our deep yearning to understand him.

2. To show that that way lies madness.

3. No, maybe we were right before.

If twelve chapters of one man’s depression about the futility of life is supposed to teach me something, it does rather propose the question of how much of it is to be taken as literal teaching.

A young man who is poor and wise is better off than an old, foolish king who won’t take advice any longer. - Ecclesiastes 4:13 GW

Yeah, yeah that sounds like teaching.

Don’t be too virtuous, and don’t be too wise. Why make yourself miserable? - Ecclesiastes 7:16


Well, it’s all in context, isn’t it? This is the account of one man’s journey trying to make sense out of everything. You can’t just read it and blindly take it as teaching from God. It’s all within the author's quote-marks.

But then, the epistles are all within their authors' quote-marks too. They’re simply true accounts of what those writers happened to believe about God. Calling it “God’s word” is a bit of an exaggeration. If not that, then certainly an assumption of the writers’ intent.

And the gospels, they’re just honest accounts of what four people genuinely said had happened. Heck, and whenever a crowd of people speak in the Bible, they hardly all chanted those words together in unison, panto-style. Those words are just a representation of the general things they were saying, surely. The crowds must have been paraphrased.

Even Jesus speaks in different styles, using different words, depending upon who is recalling the occasion. Those are therefore surely not the actual words he used. (brilliant sermons though – so short.)

Ultimately, I have to wonder if one day, in Heaven, quoting the Bible to God would really be a wise thing. I can easily see him cutting me off with “Hey - I didn’t write that, you people did.” He might even call the original human author as a witness to this. Paul might stand there and howl “I never ever intended my letters to be published out of context and misused like that. What would you say if, after your death, I went around claiming your blog was the holy unchanging infallible word of God? That’s not what you intended either.”

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve always known that I have no good reason for believing the Bible. My one and only reason is because everyone else says so, which is an utterly rubbish reason. Surely we believe it to be God’s word because, hungry for any words at all from him, we clutch onto manuscripts that have lasted through the ages enough to have taken on a mysteriousness, that they would never have had on day one.

Don’t get me wrong – I still believe the Bible and base my whole life on it, for better or for worse. If I were wrong, and only 90% of it were right, that would still be a good average to have died following though. All I can do is accept that I don’t understand, seek truth, and live my life as best I can following God, and trust that it will all be okay when I do die.

So there you go – in this post I’ve honestly voiced something about my faith that I can’t make sense of, and concluded that I should just get my head down, do my best and trust God.

I think that’s what the author of Ecclesiastes was saying to do...


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