How Do We Explain Talking Donkeys and Burning Bushes?

by Dan DeWitt

Dear pastor,

I’m completely committed to the authority of the Word of God and to all it teaches including its inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility. Unfortunately, I have this nagging doubt that I feel plagues me at times when I read certain portions of Scripture. It’s not a doubt caused by “apparent” contradictions and the like, but a reservation and doubt as I read the portions that seem like they could be straight out of a fairy tale—things like a talking serpent, a special tree, a burning bush, Balaam’s talking donkey, Samson slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey, a pillar of cloud and fire that went ahead of the Israelites in the wilderness, and so on. On top of that, there are the difficult passages that gnaw at the question of God’s goodness when he deals out justice. When I read Scripture with my children and things like these come up, I feel perplexed and even a little disingenuous as I try to communicate why these stories are true but why those in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe are not. Could you help?

Dear Josh,

Thank you for your note. I appreciate your honesty. Please know that doubt isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. Doubt can be a sign that you are taking your faith seriously. I sometimes worry about Christians who have no questions. That can be a sign they aren’t paying much attention to their faith or the world around them.

You mentioned that you believe the Bible but sometimes struggle with parts that seem like they could be ripped from a fairy tale: talking snakes and donkeys, fish swallowing men whole then vomiting them up on land so they can preach God’s judgment, and stuff like the sun standing still for an entire day.

Things like these can offend our modern sensibilities, can’t they? Let me offer a few thoughts for you to consider…

How Do We Explain Talking Donkeys and Burning Bushes?