Let’s talk about God's Plan for Salvation:
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” - Gal 1:3-5
The topic of God’s goodness has been coming up repeatedly in my life. Recently, someone I interacted with rejected the notion that Christ’s suffering on the cross was part of God’s plan. She wrote:
“I do absolutely believe the only reason Jesus died was because of the unjust system he was living in and the people who participated in it. Period. No deeper cause there at all. I do not believe it was God's plan and I do not believe in violent atonement.”
Unfortunately, in order for someone to say something like this they have to reject the Bible as a reliable source of knowledge about God and Jesus. Because Gal 1:4 is not the only verse that explicitly says that Jesus’ sacrifice was “according to the will of God”. The idea of sacrifice is completely infused throughout the Bible.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” - Heb 9:22
What reason could one have for rejecting the reliability of the Bible? Often, for Christians, it's through what they think are good intentions. They have the perfectly justified belief that God is Love (1Jo 4:8). And they have the equally justified believe that the commands that best represent God are the two greatest ones:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ - Mat 22:39
These commands seem perfectly reasonable and desirable. They manifest everything that we want and expect from a Perfect Divine Being. So, why go beyond them? As long as "God is love", then we don’t need the rest of the Bible. Especially with the difficult passages about God flooding the Earth (Gen 6:9-9:17) or the plague against the first born (Exd 11) or God’s command to wipe out the Amalekites, man, woman and child (1Sa 15). What kind of “God of Love” does those kinds of things? So, according to some people, it would be crazy to think that the Bible gives a completely reliable account of God and Jesus. But the question then becomes, “How does one determine what parts of the Bible are reliable?”
At first it seems pretty simple,
“If some scripture does not line up with this commandment then I have to question it…”
However, the fatal flaw of this “measuring stick” for scripture becomes evident from a careful reading of the commands themselves. Particularly, the first and greatest one. In order to love God with all our minds, we must strive to know God. We must first come to know God intimately before we can love anyone else. Including ourselves.
How do we get to know God unless we have a reliable source for that knowledge?
If we can’t rely on the Bible then we have to rely on our own reasoning and subjective feelings/experience. Both of which are notoriously unreliable and prone to "changing" God in the way we want Him to be rather than the way He actually is (Jer 17:9). Ironically, without the Bible acting as the foundation for our knowledge of God, we end up failing to follow the first and greatest command because we end up worshipping an idol. A god of our own creation. The simple way to avoid this problem is to maintain that the Bible is a reliable source of knowledge about God and bravely face those difficult passages and trust God through them. To have faith that the Bible is truly of God even though it's also truly of humanity. It’s ok to “question” scripture, but those questions should be asked in the same spirit that Mary questioned Gabriel (Luk 1:34). We need to avoid questioning in the spirit of Zacharias (Luk 1:18)