Last week I watched the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance for the 3,126th time. Or maybe the 3,127th time, I’m not sure. John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Andy Divine, John Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Edmond O’Brien, and directed by John Ford. Give me a break. Jimmy Stewart rises to fame and becomes a United States Senator upon the mistaken reputation that he outdueled a ruthless outlaw. When he reveals to a newspaper writer decades later that John Wayne was the true vigilante, the scribe begins to walk away in rejection of the revelation. Leaving the scene, the reporter poignantly offers, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” My take is that the quote is a variation of the better phrased, “When legend and fact disagree, print the legend.”
Skeptics and challengers will charge that the Bible is very much legend and myth ripened into fact. They will rail against the marvelous truth that, in God, a sea can be parted to save God’s people, that a Baby can be born to a Virgin, that a dead Man can be resurrected and walk out of a tomb, and that there is eternal life beyond the grave. There is a wide denial of the divine, which surely exists behind everything ordinary. There is pretense and pride for the ability of mankind, claiming credit for the same blessings God has given us. The Scriptures are maligned as being filled with fable and religious folklore contrived to be the Gospel, sometimes sweetened by a “however well intended” patronization. In this vein, Jesus was not God, He was just a holy man and a wise teacher.
The Bible is true. Of course, we recognize that within its pages are stories, parables, and myths intentionally employed as literary devices to explain the things of God. But the principles, doctrines, revelations, promises, miracles, messages, events, and happenings contained in the Scriptures are true and reliable and comprise the most glorious of all gifts to the world except for Jesus Himself, (Abraham Lincoln’s description of the Bible). In fact, they are so true and reliable that the Bible is our ultimate standard, measuring stick, mirror, test, ruler, and measure of the truth of everything else. It is the very standard of truth against which all things are to be measured. If someone advances a particular belief or teaching and you wonder about its truth, simply hold it up to the biblical mirror and it will be shown as authentic or counterfeit. Jesus is Truth, with a capital T. Did you catch that? It is not merely that He speaks Truth or represents Truth. His very Being is Truth and no falsehood or darkness can exist in Him. In light of His light, the Holy Spirit will bring us into all Truth and never tell us or lead us into anything inconsistent with biblical teaching. Once we slip away from that reality, we fall into the spurious practice of making legends into facts and we are lost.
How do we know the Bible is not just legend made fact? Many, many ways. Here though, I would like to highlight just one. Here I would like to use the warts of the Bible as evidence of its honesty, candor, and authenticity.
If one wished to deceive the world into believing a fake revelation of God, human nature would cause the deceiver to put forth a text so winsome, lovely, clean, pure, divine, and holy that many would embrace it readily and with delight. Even if the trickster did a poor job of it, anyone succeeding him in the fraud would make the necessary edits and emendations to eliminate any obstacles to winning new converts. The legends would be crafted so appealingly that they would become treasured fact over time and perhaps further the hoax for centuries.
The Bible does just the opposite. While it surely has its winsome, lovely, clean, pure, divine and holy characteristics, it also has its warts. Instead of being a brainwashing manifesto that makes everyone in the Lord appear heroic and perfect, it underscores truth and fact by eliminating and preventing the legends. If one were conjuring a false revelation of God designed to lure followers, the text would not mention the cowardice of Abraham, the disobedience of Moses, the adultery of David, Jeremiah’s defiance, Noah’s drunken nakedness, Hosea’s prostitute wife, the murders or executions of Moses, David and Paul, John the Baptist’s doubt, Peter’s denial, the Apostles’ gutless moments, the impurity of Jesus’ bloodline, and so many more humiliating and embarrassing family truths. This is not the stuff of legends, though so many of them had heroic moments and vitally faithful lives in the final analysis.
A most significant proof of the Bible’s honesty, candor, truth, integrity, reliability and divine inspiration is found in its warts and blemishes. Instead of whitewashing the family shame, the shame is put right out front for all to see, that we may better grasp our desperate need for a Savior. Instead of sanitizing, laundering, sterilizing, purifying, and scrubbing the biblical story, God has chosen to leave in all the filth, defilement and sin. Instead of opening the possibility that we might become worshippers of Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, or Paul, God uses the Bible to eliminate the legends before they begin. We are to be true worshippers of only the One.
The media may hold as a maxim that “When legend and fact disagree, print the legend.” But the Holy Spirit of God holds that “When legend and fact disagree, the Bible is the printing of the fact.” And the ultimate fact is that God is Truth and His Holy Bible is His truthful Word for all His people.