I think this is going to be my last post on the subject for a while. If you want to understand more on a subject such as this there are other authors/theologians that hold similar views (as far as I know) on the Bible. One to try if you want an easy read is Brian McLaren in A New Kind of Christian and also a Generous Orthodoxy. Another person, though a lot harder to read is Karl Barth is his Church Dogmatics (early 20th century theologian).
I was asked a few questions in my last post by Ollie, so I thought I would summarize my beliefs with a brief explanation, but hopefully my past 8 or so posts helped set me up for this one.
Does the bible have contradictions?
I would say yes. I could point you to numerous examples, For example:
Who incited David to count the fighting men of Israel, Satan or God (2 Sam 24:1; 1 Chron 21:1)
In the same two chapters, how many years was threatened of famine; seven or three?
How old was Ahaziah when he became king; 22 or 42 (2 Kings 8:26, 2 Chron 22:2)
Was John the Baptist Elijah or no? (John 1:19-21, Matthew 17:10-13)
Obviously this is very few. However, I have a large list of them if anyone wants me to send them to them. I’m not by this trying to show that the bible is wrong, or shouldn’t be revered. I’m trying to show that the view that the bible is without error is inaccurate, there are hundreds of errors. From different numbers, to different wording, to different people being present at certain times to complete contradictions the bible has all kinda of errors. This is a reason that I can’t believe that the Bible is this holy book that floated down from heaven directly from God’s spirit. The point isn’t to say that the bible is wrong, the points is that a perfect God did not write or inerrantly inspire these text or NONE of these errors would exist and it would be 100% inerrant and infallible.
Do I believe that the same errors existed in the original manuscripts?
Once again I would have to answer yes. There is simply too many of them for all of them to be by copy errors and we have way too many manuscripts that all have the same text on them. Some however do hold the view that the original authors of the original text on the original manuscripts were the ones inspired and only the original manuscripts can be considered the Word of God, but we don’t have any of those anyway so what would be the point?
I don’t think the point is ever if it has errors in it. Anyone who actually studies the text can’t deny these errors. The errors never change the point though. They are not serious enough errors that it invalidates our story. The point of pointing out errors is to show that it didn’t come from God directly to us.
Is the bible God-breathed?
This is one of the more difficult questions I think to answer. I’ve heard it explained like this which makes sense to me. In the same way that Adam was God breathed, and the disciples were Jesus-breathed so is the bible. In other words the disciples had Jesus breathe on them and then they went out in power with the message of the gospel. Adam had God breathe on him and it gave him life, freedom and purpose. I think the bible fits into these categories. The bible is God breathed in meaning that it has power (because of the gospel that is found in it), that it brings freedom (because of the gospel that is in it), and that it gives life (because of the gospel that is found in it) and it has a purpose (because it is God’s story). Was Adam perfect, inerrant or infallible? Were the discples inerrant or infallible?
What about all the verses that lay claim to its authenticity?
First, its kind of hard to give credit to a book because itself gives it credit. It’s circular and needs more than that for its claim to hold. Second, the bible never existed when each individual books were written. Third, the bible doesn’t give itself nor are they found anywhere in the bible terms such as inerrant, infallible or authoritative; they are words the church has applied to them. Forth, most claims talking about scripture are talking about the Hebrew Bible anyway, which almost all Christians would argue that most ‘laws’ in there aren’t for today anyway (which is odd if it is the inerrant Word of God, how do we pick and choose which ones we follow or not?)
Is the bible accurate as a historical document?
Of all the texts in the entire world of any writing at all I would put my trust in biblical documents before anything else. Thousands upon thousands of texts have been found and compared and what we have is more probably and more likely than any other texts in the history of the world The only thing we need to keep in mind is that most if not all authors of biblical text were Jewish, which would lead to a very ‘sided’ story of Jewish history.
I believe with all my heart that the God that created everything that we see around us is the same God that we are trying to understand through all of this. I believe that this God is a personal God that is in touch with his creation and working through it. I believe that the bible is only a fraction of what God has done in history and that he has done much more and will continue to. I believe that the God I serve is the God of history the now and the future.
What is the bible then?
The bible is the most remarkable, amazing, congruent, beautiful, bottomless, layered, consistent text that the world has ever known. It tells a story. It is the story of God. From creating Adam and eve to the flood to the covenant with Abraham to the exodus of the Israelites to the rise and fall of Babylon and the falling back and coming back to God of the Israelites. To the peak of Israelite history which is Christ where he saves mankind from itself and brings the Kingdom of God among us and gives us hope for the Kingdom of God to come. To the expansion of the first Christians all over the world. To the ethical and pastoral letters of Paul encouraging churches to keep the example that Christ gave and helping them live it out practically. This is our bible. It is the story that we are part of. We are nothing without that story. Without the story we will not find meaning or purpose or understanding. Without that story we would never know Christ. This story is the story that we are in the midst of now. The story is still unfolding in our lives and the church today. Our goal is not to box up the bible and study it like it is part of the past as something we need to understand better. Our goal is to let it loose in all of our lives and continually live out the story in our daily lives. The bible wasn’t meant to end at John, it was meant to unfold into our lives and into the future.
What place should it have in our lives?
The bible tells us about God. It shows us what he has done in the past and shows us what he has done to bring about reconciliation to him. Without this knowledge we aren’t going to be able to fully live in step with the lives that we were created to live. This isn’t knowledge like one day you know 2+2=4, instead it’s like the knowledge of the entire subject of math. You will never get to the depths of the bible and God’s story. It is not simply a equation to learn but a subject to chase after. The more you know and live it the more you are living in tune with God’s plan not just now but all through history. Study it, live it, understand it, question it, expand it, revel in it, rejoice in it but for heaven’s sake; don’t worship it.
So in short, I believe that the Bible is the God-breathed historical redemptive narrative that sums up, encapsulates, points to and reveals the authoritative, inerrant and infallible Word of God who is Jesus Christ.