Here we are then, with another exciting instalment of supposed Bible inaccuracies. This week we’re looking at some of the questions posed in the book of Mark. Woohoo!
Mark 6:5 – Why couldn’t Jesus do mighty works?
Problem: If Jesus is God, ‘with all authority in heaven and earth’, why is it that he ‘could do no mighty work’? Surely that would mean He is not all-powerful?
Solution: Jesus is almighty as God, but not as man. For example, as God Jesus never got tired, but as man He did. Furthermore, the issue here is about principle, not metaphysics – which is to say that Jesus chose not to perform miracles because of the people’s ‘unbelief’. He wasn’t an entertainer or a spiritual vending machine. He deemed it a wasted effort. In modern life, too, you will find people who say ‘If God wrote his name across the sky, I’d believe.’ But when you talk to them about the odds of the universe existing by chance (link to first Ethos video) and suggest that God has, in fact, done just that, they fob you off with phrases like ‘someone had to win the lottery!’ God responds to our need for Him, not our need for tricks and wonders!
Mark 10: 17-31 – Did Jesus deny He was God to the rich, young ruler?
Problem: Jesus is called ‘Good Teacher’, which He rebukes, saying, ‘Why do you call me Good? No-one is Good but One, that is, God’. Is he here conceding His lack of full divinity?
Solution: No, He isn’t. Jesus did not deny He was God; He simply asked the man to examine the implications of what he was saying – essentially, ‘Do you understand what it means to call me Good?’ Jesus was forcing the rich young ruler into an uncomfortable dilemma – either He is Good and therefore God, or He is simply a man and therefore flawed. In today’s western culture, we have a very arbitrary idea of what ‘Good’ is. We really use it to mean ‘Nice’, but Nice does not have the same moral implications as Good. Have a think about how you personally might define good, and what reason you have to think that definition is the right one. Going back to the text, Jesus is asking this very question, getting the man to think about what he means by ‘Good’. Realistically, no Good man would deceive people by claiming to be God. The liberal Christ – a good moral teacher but not God – is a flight of fancy, and a figment of our post-modern imagination.
Mark 11: 23-24 – Did Jesus promise to give literally anything we ask for in faith?
Problem: Superficially, this verse does seem to suggest that God will grant any request we make of Him as long as we just believe hard enough. But we all know from our own lives that this isn’t wholly true – in the words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want.
Solution: First of all, God cannot literally give us anything. Some things are actually impossible. For example, God could not grant out request to be God, or, much to my own annoyance, the real Batman. He can’t make a square circle or a married bachelor. He can’t go against His own nature and approve of our sin.
Secondly, the context in the passage indicates that it was not an unconditional offer, when the very next verse says ‘If you….’ This is the conditional tense, and so is concerned with conditions.
All difficult passages should be interpreted in harmony with other clear statements of Scripture. Paul wasn’t healed of the thorn in his flesh, though he prayed faithfully and earnestly. Jesus taught that it was not the blind man’s lack of faith that made him blind, rather he was born blind ‘that the works of God should be revealed in him’. (John 9:3) The reality – of which we all sometimes need to be reminded – is that God is not here to do our bidding. We are not cosmic wizards calling down storms like Saruman. Prayer is a means by which we serve God, not the reverse. It is not about getting our will done in heaven, but God getting His will done on earth.
Prayers do get answered, and people do get healed, but God’s greatest promise to us is himself, not signs and wonders. We must ‘abide in Him’ and ask ‘according to His will.’
Tune in next time for some more stimulating Bible-ly difficulty. Same bat-time, same bat-channel.