How Practical Is the Bible?
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light on my path.”—Ps. 119:105, AT.
1. What charges undermine the Bible, yet what is its value?
JEHOVAH’S Word the Bible is the best seller of all time. For many it is also becoming the best dust-collector of our time. The most-sold but proportionately least-read book. Why? The Bible’s worth comes under assault from many quarters. The scientist says it is not scientific, the atheist says it is contradictory, the modernist clergy say it is legend, the fundamentalists make it appear ridiculous and void, and the people generally dismiss it as impractical for guidance in this hardheaded, realistic, wicked old world. But it is not unscientific, not contradictory, not legendary, not ridiculous and void, and above all it is not impractical. The scientist, the atheist, the modernist and fundamentalist clergy, and the people generally are wrong, for the Bible is the most scientific, consistent, factual, reasonable and practical book on earth! It alone is the reliable lamp and light for the feet and pathways of men.—Ps. 119:105.
2. What facts refute the charge that it is unscientific?
2 Only briefly will limited space allow us to turn back these assaults, but it should suffice to open honest minds to further investigation. Though the Bible is not provided as a textbook on science, yet when it touches on scientific matters it is accurate and true. For example, science teaches that man’s speech evolved from grunts and growls as he ascended from some primitive ape, but the known facts are that the older the language the more difficult and complex it is, forcing the authorities in the field to conclude that instead of speech evolving from simple to complex the exact opposite is true. This matches the Bible account, that man was created perfect, with full powers of speech, capable of expressing in fine shades of meaning the thoughts of a perfect mind.a Also, scientists scoff at the Bible account of Jacob engineering spotted offspring from his flocks by making the females look at a spotted pattern-work of rods, such ideas of prenatal influence or maternal impressions being now largely discarded. However, the scientists overlook that this was only Jacob’s opinion, and that in a dream that followed Jehovah corrected Jacob and showed him the real reason for the spotted offspring, a reason in harmony with Mendel’s laws of heredity, which scientists did not appreciate until this twentieth century.b (Gen. 30:37-43; 31:10-12) Finally, ridicule comes from scientists because the Bible classes the rabbit with animals that chew the cud. (Lev. 11:6; Deut. 14:7) But now a few alert scientists have discovered that rabbits do accomplish in effect or principle a chewing of the cud, by a strange process causing food to go through its digestive system twice. This unusual fact has been verified by the Smithsonian Institution.c The Bible is not like the textbooks that scientists write and which are useless and out-of-date in a few years because of their many mistakes; the Bible endures as true forever.—Isa. 40:8; John 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:25.
3. What instances may the atheist cite to support his charge of contradiction? Do they prove his point?
3 What about the atheist charge that the Bible is contradictory? It is a hasty assumption. For example, the atheist may point to Ecclesiastes 1:4 which says “the earth abideth for ever”, and then flip the pages to 2 Peter 3:10 and read: “The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” He gloats that here is a contradiction that proves the Bible unreliable. However, in the first instance it is the literal earth that does abide forever; while in the second reference the term “earth” stands for the peoples generally and their organized governments under Satan. (2 Cor. 4:4) The context shows this correct, for it had just mentioned that the earth in Noah’s day was destroyed by water. We know the flood did not destroy the literal earth; it is still here. It did wash out of existence the wicked peoples and governing arrangements upon the surface of the earth. This symbolical reference to peoples as “earth” is not infrequent. (1 Ki. 10:24; Ps. 66:4; 98:9) Or, the atheist may say Christ contradicted himself, one time telling his disciples not to provide themselves with purses and on another occasion instructing them to do so. (Matt. 10:9, 10; Luke 10:4; 22:35, 36) In the first instance they were being sent forth on missionary work, to trust in God’s provision for them as workers worthy of their pay. They would be taking spiritual food to the people, and interested persons would gladly respond with some material help for the preachers. But in the second instance Jesus was about to be nailed to the torture stake, his followers scattered, persecution set in, with enemies on all sides, and even those favoring the message fearful of showing friendliness for Christ’s followers. Then Christians would have to make provision for their material needs.
4. Why is the atheist so readily deceived?
4 By ignoring the context and possible symbolic meanings of scriptures the atheist thinks he finds contradictions, and because he is looking for contradictions he ends his search with his superficial reading, happy, feeling rewarded, thinking he has found what he was seeking. He does not wish to continue his study to get an understanding that would bring harmony to the passages that his prejudiced mind views as contradictory. He has his reward.—Matt. 6:2, 5, 16.
5. How do modernist clergy view the Bible, and why?
5 The modernist clergy join in with the attacks on the Bible because they are caught in this trap: “The fear of man leads one into a snare.” (Prov. 29:25, AT) The popular concept of the day is that the Bible is only myth and legend, and its only value is literary. Fearing the scorn of the worldly wise and trying to keep pace with the intellectual classes and stay in their favor, the modernist clergy abandon the Bible truths to embrace the theories and philosophies of the smart men of this world. The Bible sounds a warning against such spineless deserters: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8, NW) Typical of those who abandon the Bible in fact but cling to it for a selfish living is the attitude expressed by the head of a theological seminary in Denver, Colorado. He said: “The biggest challenge of religious education is to fit a camel-train philosophy into a diesel civilization.” This is just another way of saying that the Bible is not practical, that it is too old-fashioned for our day, that it is about as out-of-date as a camel train would be in our fast-moving, machine-age civilization.
6. How do fundamentalist clergy make it seem ridiculous and void?
6 Creed-bound fundamentalist clergymen that always take the Bible so literally make it ridiculous. After emoting at length on how God is love, they turn right around and say that he torments people forever in a lake of fire and brimstone. However, if the punishment of the wicked were to be torment, why did Jehovah tell Adam that to disobediently eat the forbidden fruit would mean death? (Gen. 2:17) If the wages of sin is eternal torment, why does Romans 6:23 say: “The wages sin pays is death”? (NW) To withstand eternal burning in a lake of fire, one would have to be immortal. And so these fundamentalists teach concerning man’s soul. But if the human soul is immortal, why does Ezekiel 18:4 state: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die”? And if man is immortal, what need is there for a resurrection through Christ Jesus? In many ways such clergymen make God’s Word appear ridiculous and void by their religious traditions and creeds.
7. How do Catholic clergy view their church tradition as compared to the Bible, and what results therefrom?
7 The Roman Catholic clergy are foremost in making void the Bible by their tradition. Only last February Catholic Bishop F. E. Hyland said in a speech in Columbus, Ohio, that “oral tradition is equally as valid as the Bible in determining what the great religious truths are”. However, one of these traditions is that Mary’s body of flesh and blood ascended literally into heaven. Yet 1 Corinthians 15:50, according to the Catholic Douay Bible, states: “Flesh and blood cannot possess the kingdom of God.” Obviously, this Catholic tradition and this Bible text are not ‘equally valid’. Either the tradition or the scripture is false. It is not the scripture. By adding these traditions as supplements to God’s Word, religious organizations come under the condemnation declared at Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18, and add divine plagues to themselves. The Bible does not need the addition of uninspired traditions prattled by men to make it complete: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Tim. 3:16, 17, NW.
MODERN-DAY SCRIBES AND PHARISEES
8. What was the course of the scribes and Pharisees with regard to their oral tradition and the Hebrew Scriptures?
8 By clinging to traditions and creeds that make void the Bible today’s clergy are like the scribes and Pharisees. They added their oral tradition to the Hebrew Scriptures, and to them Jesus said: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep paying respect to me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” (Matt. 15:6-9, NW) The scribes and Pharisees read with their lips from the Law of Moses and quoted with their mouths the Prophets and Psalms, but did not live up to the divine precepts. They added their Talmudic traditions and based their doctrines upon these human commands. Moreover, in a showy, public display they decorated the tombs of the prophets and wailed that they would never have shared in taking the blood of these martyrs; then they turned right around and pressured unwilling Pilate into killing God’s greatest prophet, Christ Jesus!—Matt. 23:29-36; 27:22-25; John 19:12-16.
9. How is their course paralleled by the clergy of Christendom today?
9 So today the clergy of Christendom eulogize Bible characters and man-made saints, but persecute Jehovah’s witnesses, who are preaching God’s pure kingdom message as representatives of God and Christ. (Matt. 25:40, 45) The clergy and people generally give the Bible a place of honor, make it the best seller, have it in their museums, and amid much fanfare pay prices for rare copies that are far higher than any other printed book draws. They have it in their homes, they place it in hotel rooms, swear on it in court and use it to administer oaths of office, Bible societies distribute it world-wide, and either in all or in part it circulates in more than a thousand languages. Christendom’s politicians love to quote it and pretend that their political parties will fulfill the Kingdom promises. Many millions of people today give the Bible much lip-service, as did the scribes and Pharisees; but also like the scribes and Pharisees they fail to live up to it, add to and subtract from it, make it void, and persecute and sometimes kill those who do take the Bible as a practical guide and try to live up to its commands.—Matt. 23:13.
10. What have Christendom’s leaders actually done to the Bible, resulting in what?
10 Despite their shallow lip-service to the Bible and their circulation of it booming into the billions, Christendom’s populations are not edified by it. Their leaders have actually killed the Bible in the minds of many by the publicized statements that it is unscientific, contradictory, mere legend and myth, and oftentimes they have made it seem ridiculous and void by their false creeds and traditions. Following these blind leaders, the blind people stumble into the same blundering conclusions and dismiss the Bible as impractical for guidance in modern living. Any who try to follow it and base hope on it are accused by them as being unrealistic, idealistic dreamers. How well do today’s worldlings fit the description given them at 2 Timothy 3:4, 5 (NW): “Lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”
WHO ARE THE PRACTICAL ONES?
11. Since this world dismisses the Bible as impractical, what questions probe into the world’s practicalness?
11 Since this world dismisses the Bible as of little importance because it is impractical, we should expect this world to be very practical. But just how practical is it? How practical is this modern generation living in the twentieth century with its glittering, scientific, atomic civilization? How practical, for example, were the two world wars they fought, by which they soaked the earth with innocent blood, spilled from the veins of women and children as well as from soldiers? How practical is their present course toward a third world war? How practical is this world’s politics, politics that has become so corrupt and riddled with graft that it is a standing joke with the people? And what about the politicians that are oftentimes more the pawns of gamblers than servants of the people? How practical is her economic system, that allows a few ultrarich to loll in the lap of luxury while millions exist in anxiety over obtaining the bare necessities of life? How practical is her rising tide of crime, the growing immorality, the soaring divorce rate, the mushrooming juvenile delinquency, problem drinkers seeking escape, and even common gluttony, all of which courses of conduct bring down upon us a flood of physical and mental ailments, venereal diseases, broken homes, illegitimate children, overcrowded jails, human heartache and untimely death? Please tell us, just what is practical about all this?
12. How would the Bible be practical in coping with such world woes?
12 How can people who indifferently and callously accept such conditions and even condone them as normal charge the Bible with being impractical? If the peoples of this world followed the Bible, they would not kill one another, but would beat sword into plowshare. Nation would not lift up sword against nation. Nor would they learn war anymore. (Ex. 20:13; Mic. 4:3) Would not that be practical? Would not the Bible prohibition on stealing and bribery be a good guide for politicians? In Israel the kings were to have a copy of God’s law for guidance; politicians today have the Bible. It would be a blessing if they followed it as much as they quote it. (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 17:18; Amos 5:12) As for the economic system that makes the few rich and the many poor, it could not so operate under Bible principles, which in several ways made provision for the poor. (Ex. 23:10, 11; Lev. 23:22; Deut. 15:7, 8, 11; 14:28, 29; Prov. 29:7) And would not the Bible be practical in stemming the rising tide of crime, turning it back, drying it up completely? Obedience to its commands would eliminate fornication and adultery, divorce and broken homes, venereal disease and illegitimate children. Moral parents would instruct their offspring in godly principles, to the elimination of juvenile delinquency. Prohibited gluttony and drunkenness would cease, and with it many of the crimes and illnesses and heartaches that attend them.—Ex. 20:12-17; Deut. 6:6, 7; 21:20, 21; Prov. 22:6; Mark 10:11, 12; 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
13. What objecting cry is raised to all this, yet what is the key to success in applying Bible principles?
13 In the wake of all this some worldling will cry out: All well and good, but it is easier said than done! Of course it is easier said than done. Everything is easier said than done. That is why so many persons say so much and do so little. That is why so many preach the Bible but so few practice it. But the fact remains that there are individuals that strive to heed these Bible precepts, and succeed in large measure. If one, or a hundred, or a few thousand can do this, can the remaining millions plead that the Bible standards are too idealistic, too far above imperfect man to be practical to shoot at? If application of these principles would end wars, dirty politics, oppressive economic systems; if it would empty jails, end crime, quench delinquency and drunkenness, and eliminate many diseases, would it not be a practical endeavor? Applying the principles to daily living is not as hard as it may seem at first. The procedure is to change over your mind, which directs your body. Alter your will, desires, interests, disposition, mental outlook and heart condition. With these inward driving forces changed for the better our actions will automatically change for the better. The key to effecting such change is what the mind feeds on, and the Bible is the inexhaustible storehouse of the needed mental food.
14. What scriptures bear out your answer on how to succeed?
14 Romans 12:2 (NW) states: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.” Serious Bible study will change your views on many things, will refashion your mind and make it over according to God’s righteous view of matters. Colossians 3:9, 10 (NW) advises: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality which through accurate knowledge is being renewed according to the image of the one who created it.” So it is accurate knowledge that enables one to cast off old ways and take on new ones that coincide with those of God and Christ. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NW) adds its similar testimony: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct . . . You should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.” With Jesus in mind, the Bible admonishes: “Arm yourselves with the same mental disposition.” (1 Pet. 4:1, NW) He did so by study of God’s Word. If we do likewise and fill our mind and heart with Bible truth, good will come of it: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”—Matt. 12:34, NW.
15. What Scriptural principles can be applied to everyday living to improve human relations?
15 We have considered some of humanity’s bigger woes that the absorption of Bible principles would erase. Now reflect on some lesser benefits, improvements in human relations and everyday living. Consider, “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7, NW) Sowing good may seem impractical, but it has its satisfying harvest in due time. Sow evil, and you reap that in time also. Go out with a “chip on your shoulder” and someone will knock it off. Be cross and grumpy and grumbly, and others will be that way toward you. Shout angry words, and others will return them with interest. Strike a man, and you will very likely receive a blow or two in return. But treat people courteously, smile, be friendly, show kindness, act in sincerity, unselfishly, with Christian love, and in all probability they will respond in like manner. “Cast your bread upon the surface of the water, for after many days you will find it.” (Eccl. 11:1, AT) You may do quite a bit of sowing before the time of reaping arrives; but eventually, after many days, results will prove your good course practical. As Jesus said: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out they will measure out to you in return.”—Luke 6:38, NW.
CONQUER EVIL WITH GOOD
16. What if a person approaches you in wrath?
16 And what if a person approaches you in wrath? Heed Romans 12:17 (NW): “Return evil for evil to no one.” In such cases the Bible advises: “A gentle answer turns away wrath; but harsh words stir up anger.” (Prov. 15:1, AT) Your soft answer will soften his hard approach, whereas harsh words on your part would harden the person all the more. So refuse to supply fuel for the fire another causes to burn against you, and the fire will soon burn itself out and cool off. In sober moments to follow, the hothead will feel shame at his childishness as he reflects upon your exercise of restraint and maturity, and you will have avoided the shameful folly of rendering evil for evil.
17. Why is it folly to render evil for evil? How will Christians counter evil?
17 If a person acts wickedly toward you, why should you make yourself into his evil image? That is the impractical way of this wicked old world. Because one calls you names, must you berate him? If one lies or backbites or gossips about you, must you repay him in kind, and yourself become a hateful liar or backbiter or gossiper, lowering yourself to his level? Would he not thereby show himself the stronger, in that he changes you into his image, his evil practices becoming your practices? If your adversary is wicked, must you abandon all your good principles and convictions in the name of being practical, or in the name of some other such senseless expediency, and lower yourself to his wicked level, and eventually be a sharer with him in God’s wrath? Rendering evil for evil sets in motion a vicious circle of evil-doing. Lie begets lie, hate breeds more hate, violence spawns greater violence, and the circle of evil gains momentum as each races in the wicked footsteps of the other, trying to outstrip the other in evil-doing, striving to repay the other with greater evil. By such dizzy whirlings both men and nations are soon unbalanced and toppled into Satan’s pitfalls. Christians will shun such snares by refusing to complete the first circle or set it in motion by returning evil for evil. Instead, they will counter with good. “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:21, NW.
18. Toward whom will we practice such good principles, and with what example in mind?
18 In view of all of the foregoing, we strongly contend that it is highly practical for persons today to follow the principles of the Bible, not just toward fellow Christians, but in their dealings with all men. “If you love those loving you, of what credit is it to you? For even the sinners love those loving them. And if you do good to those doing good to you, really of what credit is it to you? Even the sinners do the same.” Rather, show unselfish love toward all, even as Jehovah is “kind toward the unthankful and wicked”. (Luke 6:27-36, NW) The good that you sow upon the seas of humanity will return to you manifold in due time, if not from the recipients then from Jehovah God.
19. What further protests fall flat, and when will all opposition to righteous principles vanish?
19 It is practical to live in accord with God’s Word. Some may protest that if all men did it would be fine, but since the majority do not it is useless for a few to do so. Yet these same men fight for their political and social convictions, even though they may be in a minority. Christians stand firm in their beliefs. Other worldlings may say Christ’s kingdom will be fine when it gets going, but until then they must do something to improve conditions. However, Christians do not sit idly by, awaiting the Kingdom’s full sway over earth. They are given so much work to do that it is imperative that they redeem the time in order to complete their gospel-preaching. Unimpressed, the worldlings continue absorbed in their own political and social schemes, dismissing the Bible as impractical. Actually, their dismissal of the Bible as impractical is only to justify their disagreement with it or their unwillingness to walk in its clean and narrow ways. They want to do things in their way, trusting in their own schemes, their own efforts, their own right. That is highly impractical, in view of the fact that Jehovah God is the wisest and mightiest force in the universe. At Armageddon, God will in a very practical way sweep into oblivion all who oppose him, and will make all who remain of like mind with him. Then people will be unified in the righteous principles of His Word. Everyone will put them into practice, and in that righteous new world all of the woes of this old world will have vanished like smoke in the wind.
a See Evolution versus The New World, page 38.
b For details see The Watchtower, November 1, 1950, page 431.
c See the Awake! magazine, April 22, 1951, page 27.