This I believe…

Another song from my Sunday School days went like this:

“I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery.
I may never fly o’er the enemy, but I’M IN THE LORD’S ARMY!”

The song was always accompanied by lots of stomping on our part.  It felt like we were stomping on anyone who didn’t agree with us.   I’ve seen a lot of spiritual stompers.  I’ve been one myself.  Maybe still am at times.  I’m sure I’ve got some boots close by.

There’s a lot of stomping going on around the topic of the Bible.  I was in college and seminary during the Scripture wars.  Harold Lindsell picked a fight with plenty when he wrote Battle For the Bible. The book pitted a bunch of evangelicals against one another.   Some of the casualties of the war included godly, Christ-honoring, Bible-believing professors under whom I sat.

Back up the church bus!  How can they be casualties of Bible wars if they are Bible-believers?  Great question.  For spiritual stompers it’s not a matter of believing the Bible but a matter of believing certain things about the Bible. “You may be a Christ-follower, you may seek to let Christ express Himself through you, but if you don’t believe as I do about the Bible…” then stomp, stomp, stomp.  For instance:

Inerrancy – the belief that the Bible contains no mistakes.  The thinking goes like this: “God is perfect.  The Bible is God’s Word. Therefore the Bible is perfect.”  “Jesus, the living Word is sinless, so it is assumed that the written Word is sinless.”  (Does anyone see the danger in that thinking?) Back to Lindsell’s book: He says, “…the Bible is not a textbook on chemistry, astronomy, philosophy, or medicine…when it speaks on matters having to do with these or any other subjects, the Bible does not lie to us.  It does not contain any errors of any kind.”

Then we run into statements in the Bible that aren’t perfect.  I hate it when that happens.  Take this example: Mark 6:8, speaking of Jesus sending out His disciples, says, “He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff…”  The same account in Luke 9:3 and Matthew 10:10 has Jesus saying, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff..”  So, who got it right? Mark or Matthew and Luke?  Did Jesus tell his disciples to bring staffs or not?

This freaks some people out.   “All Scripture is God-breathed…” after all.  That means the Bible is always right.  It is, in fact, impossible for the Bible to be wrong about anything.  If it’s wrong about anything, well, it may be wrong about everything.  Yikes! Then what do we do?

So what does it mean to “believe the Bible,” “confess it’s true” when we are well aware that certain “facts” don’t fit?

First, questions are good.  I know, we’re not supposed to ask questions.  We’re supposed to provide answers to other people’s questions.  But, sorry, I have questions.  So did Origen.  Origen was a theologian and respected Bible interpreter in the 3rd century.  He read the war accounts of Joshua and couldn’t get a handle on them. “Why would God command His people to commit genocide?” he asked.  Others have asked the same thing.  His take on it?  He concluded that the conquest stories in Joshua are allegories of how we battle the temptations we face.  How would that fly in the church today?  No matter if you agree with Origen or not, you have to love the fact that he asked questions, that he wrestled with the texts and that he tried hard to apply the Bible to his life and world.

Second,  Literal or not?    Shouldn’t we read the Bible literally?  Sounds right, doesn’t it? Right but not simple.  Here are a couple of definitions of “literal:”
1. “It happened exactly this way.”  or,
2. “What the writer intended.”
So, for example, what does it mean to read Genesis 1 literally?  If you follow the first definition, Genesis 1 is a play-by-play description of how the world was created. If you follow the second definition, it could be a God-inspired meditation on the origins of the universe attesting to the creative power of God.

Tim Keller, who believes that Genesis 1 is a poem, says this: “The way to respect the authority of the Biblical writers is to take them as they want to be taken.  Sometimes they want to be taken literally, sometimes they don’t. We must listen to them, not impose our thinking and agenda on them.”

Third, accept the Bible for what it is. Some years ago the late Adrian Rogers, one of the architects of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, was asked for his definition of inerrancy.  He answered: “It means the Bible is truth without mixture of error historically, philosophically, scientifically and theologically.”  While I have huge respect for Dr. Rogers, he was making claims about the Bible that the Bible doesn’t make for itself.

The Bible does not claim to be inerrant. It does claim to be true.  “The entirety of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous judgments endures forever” Psalm 119:160.  “True” does not mean “inerrant”.  The Bible is 100% true, but that doesn’t necessitate that all of it has to be 100% scientific and historical “fact.”  To require the Bible to be “factual” in the areas of history, chronology, science,  is to impose on it a 21st century mindset that distorts it.

When you’re dealing with any book, you have to know what its purpose is or you won’t understand it correctly.  The main purpose of the Bible is found here:

“And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself…And He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Luke 24:27, 44-45

The purpose of the Bible is to point us to God’s final Word: Jesus.

Let’s take off and keep off our stomping boots and put on our sandals and walk with Jesus – the Living Word.

10 thoughts on “This I believe…

  1. This is one I have struggle with for many years. It felt “right” to jump on the inerrant bandwagon. If I didn’t, I felt as if I was somehow not believing in Jesus and His truths. What I landed on was this. Jesus, the living Word is truth. When I worship, I worship Him. I love Him. I don’t worship the bible. Funny how many people I hear say they love the Word but rarely hear them say they love Jesus. The one thing I know is this, I am to love The Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I will use the Word of God as a guide and source to help me know the one I am to love. I have taken off my stomping boots. Wonder why Christians have a hard time seeing that wearing their stomping boots only helps the enemy with his plan to keep the world from knowing the Living Word.

  2. I hear you. Inerrancy has become a litmus test of one’s commitment to Christ and of one’s orthodoxy. I like where you’ve landed. Is it ok to say that the bible is true, but Jesus is the truth?

  3. I know that you have placed this book as your top resource for communicating Gods word. I know you hold this book dear to your heart for its rich information that is written from multiple view points in history. I know that you have dug deep into the various interpretations to relay the most understandable information to the receivers of your message. Even then you have found new understandings that are totally different if you were standing there 1700 years ago verses standing here in 2012. Words even change there meanings in our time.
    I too, believe in the Truth of the bible. Without it’s truth we would have to just depend on hear say about the existence of Jesus. Even Jesus had to do his part by memorizing the first four books as a young man becoming a Rabbi.
    A question I have is; who are we going to pick to add book 48, 49, 50, etc.? Who will be worthy of telling the history of our timeline? Will it be God inspired?
    I love the bible and enjoy the rich information within it. I pray that I can always seek out the best interpretations based on when, where, and the language and its slang of that the timelines it was written. I know that taking verses literally based on my intellect of the 21st century may leave me stranded at times unless I seek deeper understanding.
    Thanks Phillip for being a deep thinker and digging deep for your information. It is the best way to be Trust Worthy even though you are not without error. That is why you ask us to look it up for ourselves and share our interpretations. Lets be curious!!!

  4. I’ve always wondered about the inerrancy of the bible as the writers were men who messed up A Lot ! Yes I believe the main theme is to point us to Jesus and know God inspires and loves us even though we screw up as those in our lives we love and forgive .

  5. Thank you for these words. It only helps support something I have believed for a long time, and I have felt condemned by other Christians for believing this way. Then, you start to think, “Should I really feel this way, or is it wrong for me to feel this way?” Granted, there is nothing better, or worse, in life than questioning yourself. I have felt for a long time that people have worshiped the book more than the Savior. I have always received good food for thought through your words Phillip, so thank you, and God Bless.

  6. Philip Is there a place to attend your services? We are not sure what to do yet but love you dearly and believe we would like to attend. Thanks again for all you do. In God’s love Dale and Susie

  7. Thank you Philip for your thought provoking words! The way you put things encourages me to ask my own questions without fear of condemnation.

  8. Welcome back to the living. Isn’t it amazing that the people inspired to write the Bible come from so many different backgrounds? From doctors and lawyers to fishermen and farmers. It certainly gives a lot of perspectives.

  9. It is this type of thinking that helped me to love attending Fellowship. Growing up in a church that was completely literal bible thought…as I became a teen and then young adult I grew away from the church.

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