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Don Stewart :: Did God Accommodate Himself to the Ignorance of the Times? (The Accommodation Theory)

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Don Stewart

This view says that God communicated His truth through Scripture but in doing so He did not correct the faulty scientific and historic beliefs that were current at the time. Instead of correcting all the untruths that people in the biblical times believed, God merely taught the people His truth and let them assume their unscientific and unhistorical views were correct. Since it would have been difficult for the authors of Scripture to correct so many misunderstandings of fact God decided to leave them ignorant of these things. This view is also known as the "accommodation theory." There are a number of objections to this way of thinking.

Where Are The Errors In Scripture?

The first objection to this view is the assumption that there are errors in Scripture. The consistent theme of the Bible is that the written Scripture are God's Words and God does not lie. The objector must first demonstrate even minor errors of history and science. This has not been done.

He Is No Longer The God Of Truth

If God spoke untruths to humanity, for whatever reason, then He would no longer be the God who does not lie. However Scripture emphasizes that He is the God who always tells the truth.

A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2).

The writer to the Hebrews stated.

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged (Hebrews 6:18).

God's Character Is At Stake

There is another objection to this view. God may have spoken to humanity in fallible language but the Bible insists that He spoke in infallible truths.

There Are Not Logical Objections To This Doctrine

Another problem with this view is that it is not logical. Because God used fallible human language to communicate His truth to humanity does not mean that He had to communicate fallible information. While human nature is indeed limited and fallible it still can communicate infallible truth.

Jesus Affirmed Divine Inspiration

The main references concerning the divine inspiration of Scripture come from Jesus. He is the one who emphasized the Scripture can be totally trusted.

Jesus Was Not Afraid To Point Out Error

Jesus did not hesitate to expose error and sinful behavior. We can give a number of examples of this from the New Testament. They include the following.

Jesus Drove Out The Moneychangers From The Temple

He chased the moneychangers away from the temple area.

So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (John 2:15).

Jesus Corrected Nicodemus

Jesus corrected Nicodemus - a leading Jewish teacher.

"You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things" (John 3:10).

He Warned Of False Prophets

Jesus warned of false prophets that would come in the midst of believers.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15).

Jesus Corrected Unbiblical Traditions

He rebuked those who held traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.

Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:3).

Jesus Rebuked The Sadducees For Their Understanding Of Scripture

Jesus told the Sadducees that they did not understand the Scripture or the power of God.

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Matthew 22:29).

Jesus Rebuked The Religious Leaders For Their Behavior

Jesus called the religious leaders "blind guides".

Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated' (Matthew 23:16).

Jesus Commended Truth

On the other hand, Jesus commend those who answered correctly

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live" (Luke 10:28).

Consequently there is nothing in the life or ministry of Jesus that would give us the slightest hint that He accommodated Himself to wrong beliefs rather than correct His ignorant contemporaries.

Should We Imitate God Who Lies?

The final problem with this perspective is that we would be commanded to imitate a God who lies or who tells half-truths. Scripture says that we should imitate God's character.

I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground (Leviticus 11:44).

Jesus said.

Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:36).

However if the accommodation theory is true then God purposely made some false statements in Scripture to more effectively communicate with humanity. Therefore it would not be sinful for us to do the same thing. In fact, we would be commanded to do this because we are to imitate God! Such an idea is totally foreign to all of Scripture.

Summary

The accommodation theory says that God did not attempt to correct the faulty scientific beliefs that were held in biblical times. Rather He accommodated Himself to these unscientific beliefs of the people. It was not His purpose to teach people about the functioning of the universe; it was to teach them spiritual truth. Therefore we should expect to find historical and scientific errors in Scripture.

However this theory does not really take into account what the Bible says about itself. The Bible claims to be God's truth to humanity. It makes no distinction between the spiritual and the scientific.

Furthermore this theory assumes errors in Scripture. This is an assumption that still needs to be proved. Until it is proven, then it is not necessary to assume God accommodated Himself to the superstitions that were held by the people.

There are other problems. As we see from the New Testament, Jesus was not afraid to rebuke error when He found it. There are a number of examples of Him correcting error. Consequently we should assume the truthfulness of statements that He did not correct.

The totality of Scripture is against any idea of God accommodating Himself to the ignorant and unscientific views of the people.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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