A couple of years ago, I was playing “Draw Something” with a young man from Finland. He was assigned the word “Bible” for me to guess. He drew a leather-bound book with a cross on the front, accompanied by the words, “Big Book of Fairy Tales.”
I kept waiting for him to ask me what I did.
The Bible, of course, is not a fairy tale, because fairy tales are clearly fantasy, a specific genre of literature written for children. Within the Bible are laws, letters, poetry and narrative history. Some scholars have doubted the historical accuracy of some of the events in scripture, only to end up with egg on their faces.
But I’ll be fair, and admit that I know what critics of the Bible mean when they say it’s full of “fairy tales.” Some of the stories within the sacred canon do contain fantastical elements: a talking snake in a garden, the sun standing still in the sky, a dead man emerging from his own grave.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of course, is the grandest miracle in the Bible — and there is more evidence to point to its historicity than some might think. Aside from that, there is something far deeper in a number of these stories than if they happened in time and space — for instance, the story of Jonah.
The story is not about a great fish swallowing a full-grown man – it is merely the vehicle to convey truth that should hit us right between the eyes. God was trying to get Jonah’s attention. God dispatched the fish to turn the reluctant prophet around and do what He had asked him to do: preach to an unrepentant city, Nineveh. As such, the story is ultimately about God’s concern for all people.
Have you ever had God try to get your attention? I sure have. I’ve never been gulped down by an oversized marine animal, but God has tapped me on the shoulder through the words of scripture. In fact, the Bible played a critical role in leading me to Christ. In my young adult years, after worldly pursuits failed to satisfy my soul, I started going back to church with my newlywed wife. I found my old confirmation Bible and began reading the Gospels — and there I discovered a Jesus I never knew.
This wasn’t the stained-glass, goody-two-shoes Jesus that I had concocted in my mind. This was a God who walked dusty roads, dined with sinners and stood up to religious phonies. His bearing impressed me. His words inspired me. His agenda to include the outcasts moved me. I joined the 1st century crowds in asking, “Who is this man? Where did he get his authority? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Yes, but more—a divine craftsman whose Spirit began shaping and sanding my rough heart.
Jesus said he came to seek and save that which was lost. I was lost. He said that he would die for the sins of the world. I had sin. He claimed that he was Bread from Heaven and Living Water. I was hungry and thirsty for God. So I finally placed my trust in Christ.
No, the Bible is not a fairy tale, but God’s active Word, written that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).