Theological Mistake of Biblical Proportions

My long-time readers for this blog both know that it began with simple presentations of things I labeled “theological mistakes.” In these earlier posts, I covered such topics as misunderstanding the “Gates of Hell” as the “Power of Satan,” misuse of the biblical word “Apocalypse,” and the false belief that God the Father abandoned God the Son while Jesus was on the cross.

While reading Time magazine this week, I came across a little article by Bryan Walsh that commented on the effects of this summer’s drought. Walsh reports that new strains of genetically modified corn are able to withstand low water conditions more successfully, thereby increasing yields in dry years. That is all well and good, although old news to Nebraskans where I live. But something else Walsh wrote clicked on my internal Theological Truth Meter.

Walsh’s first statement goes like this:

All farmers know they’ll have to endure the occasional dry period, but what has happened to the American Midwest this summer has been practically biblical.

“Practically biblical”? What does that mean? I guess Walsh means this is a drought of “biblical proportions,” a catchphrase of Hollywood that he has abbreviated. When a character in a TV show or movie says something like this, it is usually a reference to a “disaster of biblical proportions.” I’m never sure what biblical reference they have in mind, but likely candidates would be the flood of Noah or the plagues of Egypt that preceded the Exodus. In both cases, the Bible presents these events as disasters caused by the Lord God for his purposes. They were not “natural” disasters in this sense, although they involved the harsh realities of natural processes as used by God.

The Bible is not a book of disasters. I know that Walsh is just trying to be stylish in his writing, and that he probably had an editorial word count that may have contributed to this careless shorthand. But I want to protect the word “biblical” from this type of casual and ignorant misuse. The word “biblical” means “of the Bible” or “from the Bible” or “in agreement with the Bible.” For me, being “biblical” is implied to be synonymous with “being true” or “being authoritative” or “being revelatory of the nature of God” or “being characteristic of God’s loving plan for human salvation.”

Not “disaster.” So, as I said to the misusers of the word “apocalypse,” get your own word. I know I sound grumpy. And you kids, stay off my lawn.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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