Summary: Did He really do all those things the Bible claims He did?
Something’s been bothering me since the seventh grade and now’s a good time to get it off my chest. It’s about God. About His abilities actually. Did He really do all those things the Bible claims He did?
It was in seventh grade that the question first came up. Until then I just assumed that God was capable of making the sun stand still and confusing men with different languages and flooding the entire earth. That’s what the Bible stories in my Sunday school class said; why should I doubt it?
I went to a Christian school. It’s kind of ironic that a kid would be taught to doubt God for the first time in a Christian school, but that’s where it happened. In Bible class we were learning about the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. After all the plagues Pharaoh lets the Israelites go and they all leave Egypt and start out across the desert to the Promised Land. A couple of days after they’re gone, Pharaoh changes his mind. It seems he misses the Israelites and all that free labor. He rounds up his war chariots and takes off into the desert to retrieve them.
I was just kind of half-consciously following along as our teacher recounted the story. I was a preacher’s kid and I had been in Sunday school since birth. I had long since memorized every Bible story ever made for flannelgraph (a 1960’s version of PowerPoint). Everything he said was old news to me … until he got to the Red Sea.
It seems, our teacher told the class, that we’ve been mistaken about God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could pass through on dry land. The Red Sea in the Bible, according his scholarly sources, was better translated “Reed Sea,” or “Sea of Reeds.” Apparently the “Reed Sea” was just a shallow, swampy backwater; a little mucky perhaps, but crossable on foot. There wasn’t actually any need for God to part the “Sea of Reeds” and our flannelgraph pictures of Israelites hiking a dirt path between two enormous walls of water weren’t really accurate.
Our Bible teacher went on to explain that Pharaoh’s heavy iron chariots weren’t made for mud bogging and their wheels became hopelessly mired in the mucky “Reed Sea.” And that, folks, was how the Israelites got away from the Egyptians.
My mind was swimming. The buzzing inside my head drowned out anything else he might have said during the class period. At thirteen, I was having my first spiritual meltdown. No enormous walls of water. No Israelites filing dry-sandaled through the God-made causeway at the bottom of the sea. No Egyptians throwing their hands up in terror as the sea walls above their heads came crashing down upon them.
My faith was in a nose dive - spiraling out of control and headed for a fiery crash. If God parting the Red Sea wasn’t true, what about the other Bible stories? What about the walls of Jericho? Did they really come tumbling down? How about the ark? Did all those animals really form a line two-by-two and march up the gangplank past Noah’s as he checked them in at the door? What about the loaves and fishes? That was my favorite. Did Jesus really feed five-thousand people with one boy’s lunch?