When Google arrived on the scene nearly 20 years ago, it was just a search engine—a powerful tool anyone could use to trawl the vast expanse of the World Wide Web for answers, but a tool all the same.
Today, it’s something else entirely. Google’s quest to organize information and provide answers has led it to integrate itself into nearly every nook and cranny of day-to-day life. It’s still a search engine, yes, but it’s also expanded into the worlds of music, e-books, Web browsers, navigation, restaurant reviews, operating systems, video platforms and more—gathering data, analyzing trends, detecting patterns, extrapolating metrics and then handing you the information you need before you’ve even asked for it.
This morning, Google told me to expect a six-minute drive to work with light traffic. It was right. Right now, it’s letting me know where I parked, what the weather is outside and what bills I have due tomorrow. It’s also reminding me to work on this article, because Google knows everything.
Well … almost.
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For all of Google’s algorithms and data-crunching ability, it still has one serious flaw:
It only knows what we know.
For the clear-cut, black-and-white, self-evident answers, that’s not much of an issue. If you’re wondering how many Land Before Time movies they made, Google can tell you that. (Answer: So far, 14 and one short-lived TV series.)
If you’re wondering how many U.S. tablespoons are in one metric ton of water, Google can tell you that. (Answer: A little more than 67,628.)
If you’re wondering about the proper way to replace that hard-to-reach doodad under the roof of your car, Google can tell you how to do that too. (Answer: It’s possible, but it requires a specialized tool not yet invented by any known civilization.)
But Google only knows those things because we know those things. Those answers are courtesy of the individuals who took the time to type them out and post them online. All Google can do is point us toward them.
Opinions, not answers
The problem comes when we leave the realm of black and white and stray into the realm of highly polarized worldviews. Try typing “what is love” into Google and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll find Wikipedia’s somewhat waffly definition (“Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection to pleasure”), a handful of spectacularly nonsensical typography projects (“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”) and, of course, the terrible, terrible music video for Haddaway’s 1993 hit single.
You’re going to run into the same problem with any of life’s great philosophical inquiries. Try searching for “the best way to live my life,” “how to find happiness” and “what makes something wrong,” and you won’t find a single, uncontested answer. You’ll find pages and pages of opinions.
And that’s really what it comes down to: When the human race can’t settle on an answer to a question, neither can Google.
The source for answers
That doesn’t mean the answer isn’t out there. Impressive as they may be, Google and its many competitors remain man-made constructs. There are things they don’t know, things they can’t possibly know—but we do ourselves a disservice if we take that as proof that no one knows.
Last year we ran a five-part series exploring how you can be sure that the Bible is true. At present, we’re running another series exploring how you can be sure that God exists. Those are two of the most important questions anyone could ever ask. Here’s why:
If the Bible is true, then its authors wrote their respective contributions under the inspiration of the God who created the universe and set the whole thing in motion (2 Timothy 3:16). And if that God exists, then He has the answers we’re looking for (1 John 3:20).
As explained by our aforementioned series (“Does God Exist?” and “Is the Bible True?”), the available evidence points us toward an all-powerful Creator who preserved His Word for us through the vehicle of the Bible.
The Bible, then, is not some ancient historical document with little to no relevance in our modern age. On the contrary: “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The sands of time have utterly failed to dull that sharpness. Civilizations rose and fell in the time it took to complete the many books of the Bible, but their divinely inspired contents remain as important today as they were thousands of years ago.
A guide to the guide
With that in mind, we created this edition of Discern to serve as a sort of guide to the ultimate guide. Because it was written thousands of years ago by a diverse group of authors who lived in a wide range of cultures spanning multiple epochs of human history, the Bible can be an intimidating book—but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
In this issue, you’ll find all manner of helpful resources for getting the most use out of your Bible. We’re going to fill you in on the things you need to know before you read the Bible if you want it to make sense. We’re going to look at why the Bible is so hard to understand and what to do about it. We’ll show you how to do a basic Bible study and even explore the ways you can take a deeper dive into its pages.
But before we do all that, let’s take a quick look at three important things you can expect to find in those pages, starting with:
Philosophers have enjoyed blurring the lines between right and wrong for hundreds of years, but the fact is, things really aren’t so fuzzy after all.
When we become our own moral standards—when our every judgment of right and wrong is based on our opinions and our thoughts and our feelings—then yes, things are going to get very subjective, very quick. But when we step back and let God make those distinctions according to fixed, unchanging standards, we’ll quickly discover that the lines are a lot clearer than some people make them look.
God’s standards aren’t arbitrary. He expects us to live by His commandments for our own good (Deuteronomy 10:13) and for the good of those around us. And the more we’re willing to do that, the more we’ll increase in:
2. Wisdom and understanding
Thinking like God is hard. We aren’t naturally equipped to operate on the same mental playing field as God, which is why He reminds us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
To us, the way God does things doesn’t always make immediate sense. But the more we strive to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), the more we’ll begin to understand why God does what He does. And with that, we can’t help but gain:
God doesn’t expect us to keep viewing the world through our limited human perspective. The more we dedicate ourselves to living His way of life, the more we’ll come to see things as He does. And the more we do that, the better framework we’ll have for comprehending the world around us. A forest looks completely different depending on whether we’re standing in it or flying over it, and life looks different the more we learn to view it from God’s perspective.
And that’s the beautiful truth of it all. There is a bigger picture—and within that picture, your life and the life of everyone who has ever lived makes complete and total sense. You are here for a reason, your life has a purpose, and spending time with the Word of God will give you the perspective you need to understand it.
Finding the answers
Here’s the question you need to ask yourself: Do you want answers, or do you want the right answers? Google, serving as the nearly inexhaustible portal of all human knowledge, has answers. It has lots of answers. But on the questions that matter, how can you be sure it’s right?
You can’t. Not on your own. But you have access to a far more important, far more reliable guide than Google. The Bible has the answers to the questions that really matter, all provided by the Creator of the universe Himself.
What would you like to know?
How to Do a Topical Bible Study
There are many ways to study the Bible. Here is one way to consider.
- A Bible (print, electronic or online).
- A place and time you can concentrate. (It’s best to find a regular time and place.)
- A concordance or searchable electronic or online Bible (for example, BlueLetterBible.org). For more on this, see our articles on “Bible Study Tools” and “Bible Software.”
Basic study steps:
- Pray for guidance.
- Pick a topic (see our article “Bible Study Topics”).
- Search for related scriptures. Let’s say you picked the topic “Communication,” with a desire to make your conversations better and more pleasing to God. Brainstorm words and phrases to search for in the Bible on this topic: speaking, talking, listening, hearing. Don’t forget words like tongue, mouth, lips—all of which are biblical terms for communication.
Tip: You might find it useful to do a search on Life, Hope & Truth for helpful articles that contain many of the key scriptures.
- Take notes:
- On what you have looked at (so you can come back to where you were).
- Key action points—what you will put into practice.
- Questions for future study.
- Next time, quickly review your notes and repeat.