Welcome back to Summer Fest! All month we are doing things a little differently than usual. Rather than giving long sermons about a specific topic each Sunday, we’re instead answering big questions that the kids of Grace have been asking.
Everything from “What does God look like?” to “Will my pet go to heaven?” to “Why did God create wasps?”
These may not be the exact questions you are wondering about, but they open the door to some really interesting reflections. And I love thinking about things from new angles. Kids have a way of doing that.
Today we’re talking about the Bible. Specifically, some practical questions about the Bible itself, like “How old is it?” and “How many people wrote it?” But also a question I find really fascinating… “Why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible?”
These are good questions, kids. So let’s get into it.
When it comes to the Bible itself (when it was written and how), I think we often fall into a pretty big misconception. That the Bible is just one unified book that fell out of heaven – and God wrote it directly to you and me.
The truth is a lot more interesting than that. The Bible is not a book at all. It’s a library.
And it didn’t fall out of heaven. It was written by lots and lots of real life people over many, many years.
But rather than just talk about it, I want to demonstrate what I mean.
• Poetry (understanding God)
• Laws (good times)
• History (bad times)
• Wisdom (generations)
• Short Stories
• Eyewitness Accounts
And that is how the Bible came to us.
The Bible is a library of scrolls written by the people of God across time.
Everything from poetry to history to wisdom designed to help humanity live in line with God’s intentions for the world.
But here’s what I don’t want you to miss. A big part of this whole process was not just about the Bible being written. It was also about the Bible being handed down.
One generation after another. They have passed this library down to their descendants saying that, “inside these pages you’ll find the words of life. Let this library shape you and you will meet God.”
For example, in the scroll of Deuteronomy, Moses has finished writing the law and he is about to hand it off to the next generation. Here’s what he says:
Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.
Each generation of God’s people have offered that same choice to their descendants. “Here is the Bible. Choose life!”
That's why we love the Bible so much at Grace. Because as we have our own encounters with God, we can make sense of them because of what our spiritual ancestors have taught us.
They handed this library of scrolls down to us. The question is, will we live out these words and hand them down to those who come after us?
Ok. So we’ve covered a little bit about what the Bible is. Now I want to try and respond to a slightly more thorny question. “Why aren't there dinosaurs in the Bible?”
Now, there are a couple of reasons why someone might ask this question.
First, it’s because dinosaurs are super cool. Right? T-Rexes are awesome. And it is just a bummer that we don’t see them anywhere in the Bible. (How cool would it be if Moses rode into Egypt riding on the back of a Stegosaurus, right?)
But there may be a deeper question here that has more to do with whether the Bible is trustworthy.
If the Bible is supposed to be full of truth about our world, then why doesn’t it say anything about something so clearly a part of our planet’s history, like dinosaurs?
Do you have to reject science if you want to believe in the Bible? That could be what this question is all about.
So let’s get into it. Why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible?
Well, the short answer is that there aren't dinosaurs in the Bible for the same reason there aren't koalas or bacteria or galaxies…
Those things aren’t in the Bible because the authors of the Bible didn't know about them!
Remember, these were ancient people living in the ancient near east. Their perspectives on the world were totally different than ours today.
When they wrote about God or his Creation, they wrote about it in terms that they understood.
For example, ancient people believed the world was flat, resting on pillars, and covered by a dome with all the stars in it. And look at what they say about God in Psalm 104.
O LORD my God, how great you are!
You are robed with honor and majesty.
You are dressed in a robe of light.
You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens;
you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds…
You placed the world on its foundation
so it would never be moved.
The author of the psalm is describing God as Creator of the world that he understood. Flat disc, dome of stars, pillars of the earth… God made it all.
He goes on in the psalm to list out all kinds of living creatures.
And here’s what he describes: wild donkeys, birds, livestock, humans, storks, wild goats, hyraxes, forest animals, young lions, ocean life, Leviathan (a mythical sea dragon)…
Does this list describe all the different kinds of animals on earth? Not even close. But does it describe all the different kinds of animals to someone living in ancient Israel? Yeah, it kind of does.
So, a curtain of stars… hyraxes… this is the world the psalm writer knew. And it’s how he describes our God as Creator of it all.
Now… we know today a lot more about the universe. We know about dinosaurs and bacteria and galaxies and koalas.
So does that mean we can't trust what the biblical authors wrote about God? No. Because they weren't trying to write science textbooks. They were writing poetry to describe the God we all follow.
And how do they describe him? Well, Psalm 104 calls him great and majestic and the creator of all… Every bit of that is still true today even though our understanding of what God created has expanded.
People get caught up in arguments about the science of the creation accounts in Genesis. But I think those arguments are missing the point. Because when we take these texts on their own terms, as written by ancient people, we realize they are:
Beautiful stories about a God of order and creativity and love designing our world with a purpose and inviting humans to join him in his life-giving presence.
That idea is just as true for us today as it was thousands of years ago. And it will be just as true for people in our future who know way more about the universe than we do. That’s what the Bible is about.
If you read the Bible as a science textbook to find answers about dinosaurs (or bacteria or koalas), you're going to be disappointed.
But if you read it as a story of a majestic, mysterious God beyond our comprehension who loves us more than we can ever imagine…
If you read it to understand how that same creator God stepped into the story as Jesus Christ to change everything… you’ll be swept into an adventure that will change your life forever.
And some day in the New Creation, when we sit down for a chat with the author of Psalm 104, we’ll be able to celebrate what we both know about our Creator God.
“Dude, you wrote a really great poem about how God created everything, right? And you talked about hyraxes? Well I’m going to blow your mind. Let me tell you about pterodactyls!”