October 18, 2017

Ten Questions On The Bible (plus one rant)

The Complete Idiot\'s Guide to the Bible, Third EditionUPDATE: If “inerrancy,” a term that doesn’t appear in any major confession or creed, equals “being a Christian” to you, then let me encourage you to stop worrying about the effect of this blog. I’m happy to have you here, but if a non-Biblical word is the essence of defining my relationship to God through Jesus and the center of your ability to accept me, then don’t wait around for me to change my mind. Move on.

Ten Questions About the Bible + one rant

1. State briefly what you believe about the Bible.

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is set down in Scripture, or may be deduced from Scripture. In scripture, God revealed what he wanted us to know about himself, ourselves and his Son. The Bible is inspired, true and the final authority for the Christian. Most importantly, the Bible is God’s revelation of his Son, Jesus Christ, and his Gospel.

2. How is the Bible inspired?

God inspired all things that in any way affected the production of the writings that make up the Bible in order to say what he desired to say in language. That inspiration contains supernatural events, but the production of the writing itself is natural in process, and it is unique, God-breathed and God caused. Human beings wrote Scripture, but the ultimate message of the Bible is because of the authorship of the Holy Spirit. The focus of the inspiration of the Bible is Jesus Christ and the gospel. Discerning inspiration is a matter of discerning the relationship of Jesus Christ to what was written.

3. So is the book of Judges inspired, or only the Gospels?

The inspiration of the book of Judges is the same as the inspiration of the Gospels, but they occupy different places in the trajectory toward the Bible’s message. Judges shows our need for a savior and previews human pictures of that savior. The Gospels tell us of that savior explicitly. If a person considers the book of Judges apart from Jesus, however, it has no importance as Christian scripture.

4. How is the Bible authoritative?

It conveys the person, work, words, accomplishment, story and meaning of the person of Jesus Christ to the church in the way God chose to express that story. There is no other source of authority in the church. The relationship of the Bible and the church is a relation where one does not exist without the other, but the Church submits to the authority of God mediated through Jesus Christ in holy scripture.

5. Is the Bible a human book?

The Bible was written by human beings. It did not drop out of heaven i.e. Joseph Smith. It is not written in a magical, miraculous way i.e. the Koran. The production of the Bible was a human process. The supervision of the Holy Spirit in NO WAY took away that human element at any point. But the inspiration of the Holy Spirit insures that what was written is not MERELY human, but is what God himself desired to say.

Some seem to feel that this statement negates Biblical prophecy and explicit passages where God spoke or appeared, etc. I am not saying there is no divine element in the Bible or divine action in history (how silly.) I am saying the production of the Bible was a human process. Whatever happened in the mind or experience of the author, the actual WRITING of the scripture was a human process, even when the author was told exactly what to write.

6. Are there aspects of the Bible that are not divine?

None of the Bible is purely divine in the sense that, for example, an angel took up the pen and wrote. It is a collection of human writings that exist because God the Holy Spirit supervised their creation. In portions of Holy Scripture, the “human” element is unmistakable, but this has nothing to do with the inspiration of the Bible. That the author of Psalm 137 wished for babies brains to be bashed in does not negate the ultimate purpose of that Psalm to introduce us to Jesus and the Gospel.

7. Why do you call the Bible a conversation?

Because I read it.

Read Deuteronomy’s strict covenantal conditionalism; read Proverb’s oberservational wisdom, then read the entire book of Job. Tell me there isn’t a conversation going on between Job and his friends over God’s justice.

There is a Biblical conversation about matters ranging from the wisdom of having a King, to the nature of the afterlife, to the justice of God, to the nature of the Messiah, to the relationship of faith and works.

That this conversation exists doesn’t mean that the Bible doesn’t teach a doctrinal or confessional truth on these things. It does mean we need to discern the various threads of the conversation that exist in the Bible, and not misrepresent the simplicity of an issue.

8. What do you believe about canonization?

The church did it, by listening to what writings said and discerning what writings were the revelation of God regarding his Son Jesus and his Gospel. While Christians believe canonization was a work of providence, they do not believe it is a work of the inspiration of the Spirit like the creation of scripture. The church, in various ways, discerned the nature of scripture over time and set aside those writings it believes are inspired. It is their relation to Jesus Christ, and not some magical process, that discerns the nature of the canonical books.

9. Do you reject the inspiration of some books?

No. What I do is make an attempt to focus on the Christ-related aspect of any portion of scripture, and that means I do not place as much importance or influence on some passages as other Christians. I am less interested in books apart from Christ than other Christians. For example, Proverbs as a course on parenting doesn’t interest me. Proverbs as related to Jesus does. Genesis as creation science doesn’t interest me. Genesis about Jesus and the Gospel does.

10. Anything else you want to say?

Yes. WCF 1 says that scripture says what God wants it to say. Barth says that the Holy Spirit takes the Bible and makes it the Word of God to you. I know there is some distance between Barth and the WCF, but I also think it is worth considering that the Holy Spirit is active in many ways with scripture, both in its production and in its proclamation/illumination. Making the “inspiration” of the Bible a matter of affirming one or two of the “right words” and ignoring what the Spirit does in all of scripture to make Christ real to those who hear the Word is foolish. And I am not a heretic for saying so.

11. is your theology “inconsistent?”

Probably. First, if someone thinks their “consistency” captures God in a theological zoo, then have a nice day. Yahweh isn’t in captivity in anyone’s theological game preserve. Second, I am in the emerging corner when it comes to theology as a “package.” I am tired of being told that believing the Bible = accepting modernistic inerrancy = Five point Calvinism = Limited atonement = like all the same theologians = read all the same books = despise and ridicule all the same people = the whole culture war = whatever is next. I completely reject that mentality. Give me inconsistency, post-evangelicalism and the crew that sails all the seas.

Comments

  1. Michael,

    Thanks for this. You put into clear words what I have been stumbling towards in my own understanding of the Bible. It helps quite a bit.

  2. bhaynes129 says:

    Michael, a really good interview with yourself 🙂 While we may disagree on one or two “fine” points, there won’t be much disagreement. Until we all realize that we have inconsistencies in our theology, we will always confuse our opinion with the Truth of our Sovereign God. I don’t want to make that tragic mistake. I love your quote — “Yahweh isn’t in captivity in anyone’s theological game preserve” — or in anyone’s box!

    Keep ranting!

  3. Well, my answers to your questions are on my blog.

    And I don’t know if we disagree all that much…