Another Look: My View of Scripture (at this point)

Note from CM: Here is another look at something I wrote back in 2011, and have edited and re-run a couple of times. Now here again I present, for your consideration and discussion, a summary of my perspective on Scripture (at this point in my understanding). In the light of our ongoing discussion on Greg Boyd’s new book, I found it helpful to revisit this statement. I hope you will too.

• • •

  • The Bible is from God. It is one of the means by which God has made himself known to human beings. The various books of the Bible were composed and edited and put together under the mysterious method of “inspiration,” by which God worked mostly through normal human processes to communicate his message.
  • The Bible is incarnational. That is, it comes to us in fully human form, taking the words of people written in their own times, from within their own cultures, according to the genres and literary conventions common to their day, and within the confines of their own limited perspectives, to communicate God’s message.
  • The Bible involves a complex conversation of faith over time. The Bible contains multiple voices, a diversity of narrative and theological perspectives, and a development of thought over time. For example, Joshua and Judges present two sides of the conquest of Canaan. Ecclesiastes and Job protest the wisdom tradition represented by a book like Proverbs, which even in its own pages presents several points of view. The “history” of Chronicles presents a different scenario of the same events than we see in the books of Kings. This diversity is only a problem if we expect the Bible to be something it is not—a timeless and perfectly consistent, always harmonizable record that is precise in every detail according to modern standards of accuracy.


  • The Bible came to us through the community of faith. Recognizing that there were human processes involved in the final editing and canonization of the Bible also highlights how God used people to bring the Bible as a final product to the world. The Hebrew Bible was put together mostly during and after the Babylonian exile. The church took nearly four centuries to complete the canonization process for the New Testament. Our understanding of the nature, authority, and message of Scripture must take these human processes into account as well.
  • The Bible is the church’s primary authority (Prima Scriptura). The fact that the church functioned for the first four centuries of its life without a complete Bible means that it cannot have sole authority apart from the church, the Holy Spirit, and the apostolic traditions (the “rule of faith”). For Protestants, at the very least this means we must make a fresh commitment to learning church history, the creeds, and the early Church Fathers for a fuller understanding and practice of the faith.
  • The Bible is true. “True” is a better way of describing the Bible than “inerrant” or “infallible” or any such words that grow out of modern categories. After all, what is an “inerrant” poem? An “infallible” story? The Bible is true because it tells the truth about God, the state of the world, human life and death, sin and salvation, wisdom and foolishness. But most of all because it tells the truth about the Truth himself and leads its readers to him.
  • The Bible is God’s story. Any individual passage or part of the Bible should be read and interpreted in the light of its big picture, its overall pattern and message. This is the point of having a biblical “canon” — an accepted “library” of inspired books that have been recognized to work together to communicate a divine message. The final form of the Bible tells a “Christotelic” story. From “in the beginning” to “in the end of days” the story constantly develops and moves forward to its culmination in Christ and the new creation. This story must always determine our emphases when interpreting its message.
  • The Bible’s central focus is Jesus. The apostles testify that Jesus taught them to see that the purpose of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings is to point to him and his good news, which restores God’s blessing to all creation. The New Testament, of course, tells Jesus’ story and accounts of the apostolic community that experienced and spread his good news. The Bible is not God’s final word, but is rather a primary witness to Jesus, God’s final Word.
  • The Bible does not contain every detail of God’s will for his people’s lives. In the Bible, God gives adequate instructions to guide his people to practice lives of love for God and neighbor. On the other hand, God expects that many implications of the Gospel will be worked out only over the course of time, in and through (and despite!) his people, until the consummation of the age. The Bible is not a “handbook” for living, with detailed instructions for every aspect of life. The Bible is not “sufficient” to answer all of life’s questions. It was not designed to do that, and we risk becoming pharisaical if we try to maintain that opinion.
  • The Bible must be interpreted and constantly reinterpreted. No one simply “believes what the Bible teaches.” People have put together any number of “statements of faith” and doctrinal statements over the course of history, claiming to represent “what the Bible teaches,” and they do not all agree. This should give us pause. Interpreting the Bible means participating in complex conversations and debates akin to the conversations within the scriptures themselves. Furthermore, as human knowledge grows and we understand facts of history and science, etc., more fully, our approach to the ancient writings in the Bible will change too. This does not mean we are ceding “authority” to human disciplines over the Bible itself. It simply reflects the reality of increasing knowledge and the ongoing task of seeking deeper wisdom.
  • The Bible doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend it. Christians do not need to prove that the Bible is a perfect book, free from “error” (as we define it today) in every way in order to have a secure faith or to present a case for Christ to the world. We need a credible, reliable witness that is self-attesting in its divine truthfulness, beauty, and power. This we have in the Bible.

65 thoughts on “Another Look: My View of Scripture (at this point)

  1. > what is a “true” journey?
    Does “truth” require “precision”? That is much of the question, IMO. Truth is a great weebly wobbly thing, with a center, but that smears in this or that direction in different times or contexts; or needs.

    As long as “The Bible Is True” doesn’t become “The Bible Is True Because The Bible Says So!”
    (During the Da Vinci Code panic, that was an actual sermon.)


  2. +1,000. This is what I call “American Hyper-Booleanism” (AHB). You are correct, Truth is being used to avoid the category of False. That is not an intellectual necessity but a result of a kind of Cultural OCD.

    I get more than enough Booleanism at my job (software).

    AHB is the only way I can understand much of what I encounter in civic life; and it has greatly helped my understand what is happening in Evangelicalism – there *must* be exactly two sides, two categories, and something is either on/in/with one or the other – always.

    — pre-Islamic Persian battle cry; roughly “US INFINITE GOOD! THEM INFINITE EVIL!”


  3. And to equate numerical success with having the truth or correct theology is dangerous and perhaps unbiblical.

    Look at all the corrupt megas profiled on Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and Wondering Eagle.


  4. THIS!!! Yes! When I became a Christian I gave some thought to ridding myself of my secular albums and avoiding secular movies.

    And did you only drink milk if it came from a Christian Cow?


  5. > Truly what they provisionally believed, yes. Led to something else,

    I just feel: Of course! When does that *not* happen?

    > an “unbirthed idea” invites a sort of contingency, non-finality, fallibility, etc.

    I would not describe it as a “fallibility”. Contingent – of course, Non-final – of course.

    > I get that the word “truth” comes into play because of the desire to avoid it’s opposite – “false”.

    +1,000. This is what I call “American Hyper-Booleanism” (AHB). You are correct, Truth is being used to avoid the category of False. That is not an intellectual necessity but a result of a kind of Cultural OCD. AHB is the only way I can understand much of what I encounter in civic life; and it has greatly helped my understand what is happening in Evangelicalism – there *must* be exactly two sides, two categories, and something is either on/in/with one or the other – always.

    > As long as “truth” recognizes provisionality,

    I agree. To me – When is our “truth” **not** provisional? We are talkative bald mud monkeys who live, maybe, in a good stretch, ~100 years. **WE** are provisional beings. Scripture is ours; a gift appropriate to that which it has been given.


  6. “(The Eastern Orthodox–or some of them–say that the Oriental Orthodox are outside the fold, because they reject the fourth and later ecumenical councils, which were accepted by the whole Church!)”

    Well, obviously they were not “accepted by the whole church” since the mono/miaphysites didn’t/don’t accept them. 🙂


  7. In a humorous coincidence we had a surprise guest speaker at church on Sunday: Greg Boyd. One of the advantages of going to a mega-church.


  8. Quite true. And to equate numerical success with having the truth or correct theology is dangerous and perhaps unbiblical. One of the themes in Scripture seems to be that it’s the small things – Israel as a small nation, a small remnant will return from exile, enter the narrow gate that few enter – that demonstrate God’s work. Judging the success of a church, or a movement, by numerical success is how the ‘world’ judges success. And if that’s the measure, Mormons have consistently done better numerically than evangelicals, and Islam is the fastest growing religion on the planet. And I think the largest and fastest growing churches in my neck of the woods are the word-faith churches – and their theology is heretical.


  9. For all of Paul’s rhetoric and apologetics and intellectualizing, he was not convinced of the reality of Jesus as Messiah by such but by the supernatural reality of Jesus himself in person. Thomas made a perfectly reasonable demand in wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus to be convinced his friends were not suffering a mass hallucination based on wishful thinking. Jesus went along with this, but said that those who believed without irrefutable proof were the ones really blessed. Somehow we have turned this into Christianity 101, which I have never found particularly convincing.

    What I have personally found convincing is the promise of God’s Holy Spirit for those who follow Jesus. This is not well received here by many who reject it on the basis of misuse or misunderstanding by others, and thus we spend most of our time here arguing over Christianity 101 within an intellectual context and spinning our wheels. Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock. I don’t think he was talking about a seminary education. There is genuine seeking after Truth, and then there is the asking done by such as Goatse which is intended to ridicule and destroy. Logic and rationality are ultimately not up to the task of seeking God, which is a supernatural quest, tho they sometimes help. Not everyone is comfortable with the supernatural, which may explain the discomfort felt by many with the Bible and the drive to intellectualize it. John said he wrote his Gospel so we might believe Jesus is the Messiah. That could apply to the whole Bible. That could be Christianity 101.


  10. I think I understand, Robert. I think what the apophatic way is trying to get to is the transcendence of God. Not God’s distance from us (because we find God within, too), but the otherness of the Uncreated One, as opposed to that which is created. We can talk about it by saying it’s beyond what we experience with our senses – though we may actually experience something with our senses. (People have come up with expressions like “uncreated light” and others to try to describe their experiences.) We can speak by analogy – we can talk about it but can’t define it exactly. It’s like talking about how and why one loves one’s beloved.



  11. Curiously, even the traditional formulation does not say “the Bible alone contains all that is necessary for salvation”. The logical implication is that all things necessary for salvation may also be “contained” outside the Bible.


  12. That’s kind of funny. You’re saying that the Episcopal Church USA has a too high view of scripture. I bet no one has said that in 40 plus years!

    I think what they’re getting at (and I should know because I spent decades in the ECUSA) is that the Bible tells us enough about Jesus for us to be “saved”. The Prayerbook uses antiquated language to express what you do in a modern idiom.


  13. Yes!

    From “Revelation Song”…

    “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come…”

    One of my favorite songs, one of my favorite lines.


  14. –> “The Episcopal Church states that the Bible ‘contains all that is necessary for salvation.'”

    This might be a minor quibble with their statement, but I wonder if it would be better stated, “The Bible POINTS to all that is necessary for salvation.” (i.e., points toward Christ). The reason for the quibble is that In and of itself, the Bible has no saving power.


  15. Could be that I’m just not on board with basic Christian teaching 101. That’s entirely possible. I have serious epistemological issues with the nature of Christian faith and its contents, as my comment below indicates. This is an ongoing struggle for me, and it comes to the fore at various junctures; I guess the character and nature of scripture is one of them.


  16. Robert, I think we’re talking past each other. The way I’m using it, “final word” means that to which the conversation of scripture had been pointing.

    Hebrews 1:1-4. God spoke to us in many ways in the past, but in these last days he has spoken through his Son.

    John 1:1-18. The eternal Word became flesh and made God known to us, superseding previous revelations.

    I think I’m just expressing basic Christian teaching 101.


  17. Please don’t misunderstand me, Dana. I’m not saying that experiences can be adequately expressed in their totality. Experience always resists adequate and total expression, even as it requires expression to be known by the one who has experienced it as well as others. But that is true of all experience, not just a special class of experience called apophatic.


  18. Regarding apophatic tradition, and the experience on which it was based: How does one express, or interpret, an experience that is inexpressible (and by extension cannot be interpreted, since interpretation is a species of expression)? If is it expressible, then why do we talk about it as apophatic? If it is apophatic, then how would it be possible to talk about it at all?

    I think that there are no experiences that cannot be expressed, even if not comprehensively or totally. To say that something is inexpressible is the same as saying that it cannot be experienced. To talk about inexpressible experiences is actually to express something about them; it doesn’t add up.


  19. Hearsay is the wrong word; I mean second-hand knowledge. I’m having difficulty understanding how I can claim to know the truths of faith when I don’t experience them directly. This seems different from my belief that Australia exists based on testimony to its existence, even though I haven’t been there, because I am not affirming a life-changing religious teaching by believing that Australia exists on the basis of second-hand knowledge. Christian faith calls for total existential commitment; as such, it seems to me that it requires first-hand knowledge and experience of at least some of its central affirmations. How do I justify my affirmation that Jesus is the final word of God when I’ve had no firsthand experience of this, and so have no direct knowledge of it either? The epistemology all seems rather circular, affirming conclusions based on evidence given by others to things they may not have had direct knowledge to, either. I mean, how did the early church come to the conclusion that Jesus is God’s final word? Did Jesus say that he was? And for us today, at centuries remove, how is saying that Jesus said it different from saying that the Bible says it?


  20. I don’t understand the epistemology involved in claiming that the Bible does not express God’s final word (presumably extra-Biblical Tradition would not express God’s final word either?) , but claiming that we know that Jesus is God’s final word based on the Biblical witness. Is our faith, and the knowledge it involves, based on hearsay?


  21. Robert, I’m sorry but I don’t understand. I said it is the testimony of the early church and scripture that tells us this and upon which we rely.


  22. Then the canon is not really closed, however much it may appear to be. It does not utter the final word about Jesus, but a primary one, as you say in that particular bullet point.


  23. Jesus was all and is all and will be all in the future. Christ is risen indeed !!!!!!!


  24. So the church knows this collectively and across time by inspiration and experience? It is not a final word expressed in Scripture, or in Scripture in tandem with extra-Biblical tradition? It is a direct, self-attesting/self-authenticating, ongoing experience and memory of the church, not dependent on either Scripture or Scripture/Tradition for its finality? The church knows this directly, and both Scripture and extra-Biblical Tradition are expressions of this direct, unmediated experience of the church? Strictly speaking, the knowledge that Jesus is the final word of God is not based on Scripture/Tradition, but on direct encounter?


  25. Robert, one would think that his death/resurrection/ascension/enthronement/outpouring of the Spirit would answer this question. This is the unified testimony, not only of scripture, but of the early Church. Jesus came to fulfill God’s promises and redeem the world. His incarnation, life and ministry, and finished work bring to a culmination God’s plan of the ages.


  26. The Bible is not God’s final word, but is rather a primary witness to Jesus, God’s final Word.

    How do we know that God’s final word is Jesus? I mean, if that knowledge is not based solely on the Bible, then the only other possible basis would be the Bible plus extra-Biblical Tradition, as in Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. If it is not based on any of these, how do we know that Jesus is God’s final word? If, on the other hand, it is knowledge based on what the Bible (or the Bible plus extra-Biblical Tradition) witnesses about him, then the Bible (or the Bible plus extra-Biblical Tradition) does express a final word from God, the word about Jesus. If it expresses this, then how can we be sure it does not express other final words from God about Jesus, or other things?

    Unless we’re going to take the route of saying that we come to the knowledge that Jesus is God’s final word by being personally illuminated by the Holy Spirit…. but such an assertion would not be congenial to the theological approach taken at iMonk.


  27. Meaningless seems a bit more toward nihilism than I want to tread or insert needle into arm. The Message says, “Smoke, nothing but smoke,” which may carry unfortunate connotations. The Voice covers it all with, “Life is fleeting, like a passing mist. It is like trying to catch hold of a breath; All vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity.” World-weary maybe but those in that frame of mind don’t usually make merry, they cry in their beer. Tired of it all, everyone needs something to believe, I believe I’ll have another beer may come closer. I dunno, choose your own nuance. Eat, drink, and be merry sounds like celebration to me.


  28. ”As texts written by people for whom monotheism was an as yet unbirthed idea.”

    Agree. But in what way would we call this “true”? It is representative of a particular place in a communal journey, yes. Truly what they provisionally believed, yes. Led to something else, yes (a newly birthed realization as you said). But in general, the idea of an “unbirthed idea” invites a sort of contingency, non-finality, fallibility, etc. There is a sense of it being provisional that doesn’t work well with what we commonly mean by “truth”.

    I wouldn’t qualify the view that the earth was flat as “true” just because the idea of a round earth hadn’t been birthed yet.

    I get that the word “truth” comes into play because of the desire to avoid it’s opposite – “false”. As long as “truth” recognizes provisionality, “truth by way of contrast”, or truth in that it reveals something about humanity in a way that can be met and critiqued by a “cruciform hermeneutic”/Christotelic reading, I think it can work.


  29. –> “Time and again I make note of ‘well if that’s not the Christ message I don’t know what is.'”

    Three examples that immediately come to mind:
    -Gran Torino
    -Stranger Than Fiction
    -Saving Private Ryan

    I’ve actually created mini-devotionals for those three movies that explore the Biblical symbolism within those three movies and the Christ message that eventually appears.


  30. Because of the latter, we rely on the former, thus the controversy; they’re man-made attempts at demonstrating the Divine.


  31. As I replied to Charles, I’m not sure how you read “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” without a tone of cynicism, but that’s not a hill I’ll die on. World-weary, then, with a tinge of cynicism, perhaps? Can you give me that? ?


  32. Christ is risen!

    Ch. Mike, I was pretty much where you are at the end of my Protestant sojourn. In the last few years of it, I also realized that the question of interpretation was primary, and I was looking for a seamless, organic interpretation of Scripture that could underlie the Good News in all its aspects and implications. In the Protestant world, I think no one can do better providing such an interpretation than N.T. Wright, because he goes back to C1 Judaism.

    However, the problem remained: God intended to constitute a People, not an atomized bunch of individual Christians, and I needed to find a church with the ethos of the Wrightean understanding of things – an interpretation that did not require me to apologize for God. You & regular readers know where that search led me.

    So if that interpretation is seamless and organic, then it stands – and doesn’t need to be re-interpreted through the years. What DOES need to happen is that that interpretation be articulated in a way that meets the questions of the culture in which it finds itself. Because the people who first heard the message of the disciples of Christ were saturated in their own scriptures, and because of the conversations that were happening among them at the time, they understood the nuances and implications of that message – whether they came to believe that message or not.

    Once the message made it into the wider Roman world, the questions about who Jesus is and how the aspects of that message carry implications for those of a different culture and belief system (largely Hellenic) were met in the **re-articulation** of that interpretation in ways the people of those cultures were prepared to understand. That’s why the Orthodox say that Christianity “baptized” Hellenic culture, including Greek philosophical terms. It’s not that the Greek philosophical concepts were taken in and accepted wholesale, but that they were already there as “hooks” on which Christian understandings could be hung, so that the nuances and implications of the Christian message could be understood by people there and then. The Church Fathers weren’t Platonists, but they used the vocabulary of Platonism to help articulate what Christians understood from the beginning, e.g. God as a Trinity of Persons. The word “person” (prosopon) already had a place in Greek philosophical thought; Christian thinkers pointed to it, and expanded it so that it could include Christian understanding. Eventually many of those words came to hold the Christian content, and were pretty much emptied of the Platonic content. I think the reason the Greek Fathers used was rendered more reasonable In starting from the apophatic tradition; I think not needing to explain mystery but recognizing the need to experience it strengthens their interpretive conclusions, rather than weakens them.

    The re-articulations of the Greek Fathers, mainly through the 800s, have stood the test of time in being able to meet the questions of the East for centuries. A lot of 20th & 21st century Orthodox thinkers understand this and are trying to do it for the questions of the West in our day. They’re not trying to re-interpret, but rather to re-articulate. This is messy and takes a lot of time. There’s plenty room for it in Orthodox tradition. That’s what Fr Stephen is doing – with a purposefully limited range of topics that he sees most needful for people in our time and place. Fr John Behr is about this, too, in a more academic setting. This is another thing that attracted me Eastward – the firm interpretation of Scripture constantly expressed in every Liturgy and prayer service so all can hear, and understand to the best of their ability (so no need to splinter into thousands of groups; our splintering adds up to a couple of dozen groups, and the oldest, between us and the Oriental Orthodox, might even be healed in my lifetime…), and the openness to find new ways to articulate that interpretation. There’s a difference between dogma and opinion (theologoumenon), and we don’t get our panties in a bunch over opinion.



  33. Hmm…not sure how to read “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” except with a tone of cynicism, but that’s not a hill I’ll die on…LOL. World-weary, then, with a tinge of cynicism, perhaps? Can you give me that? 😉


  34. –> “I probably chose ‘true’ because I want to make the point that ‘true’ does not always equal precise or historically accurate.”

    That’s why I like “trustworthy,” actually, because to me “trustworthy” doesn’t imply precisely accurate whereas “true” might. For example, if a printing of a history textbook screws up a date (for example, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1592”) I might not be able to claim the textbook is “true” but (for me, anyway) I can still claim it’s trustworthy. Just because a date is missed doesn’t negate the trustworthiness of the whole.

    Maybe it’s a semantics thing, but I find the Bible “trustworthy” even if some minor details were screwed up during the translation.

    –> “Even fictional stories (parables anyone?) can be true.”

    THIS!!! Yes! When I became a Christian I gave some thought to ridding myself of my secular albums and avoiding secular movies. God and I kinda chatted about that a bit and I seemed to be relieved of that burden and concern. Having thus remained somewhat secularized in my music listening and movie viewing, I continually marvel at how often God’s truth permeates event the most secular of works. Time and again I make note of “well if that’s not the Christ message I don’t know what is.”


  35. Trustworthy may be in accord with the change or growth in perception from the faith of God to the faithfulness of God. I agree that the Preacher is not cynical. Granted things can be taken to excess, sometimes it takes eat, drink, and be merry to counteract and balance out the life destruction of the biblical grinches and noggin thunkers.


  36. The Episcopal Church states that the Bible “contains all that is necessary for salvation.” I really like that way of looking at it.

    CM, your essay is, as always, both thought-provoking and respectful. I also appreciate Adam’s comment on the Talmud – I haven’t read it and didn’t realize that it was set up in debate form.

    I also agree that the book of Ecclesiastes is not “cynical,” even though it does contain the repeated refrain of “all is vanity.” It starts its last chapter with “Remember your Creator/ in the days of your youth”, before going on into that magnificently gloomy passage on the pains of old age, which Chaplain Mike wrote on some months ago. But even that passage concludes not only with death, but with the slightly hopeful verse: “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

    As for the well-named Goat,*of course* God can speak to all humanity, and can use different religions to do so. (IMO, which is worth what you paid for it.) Many of the world’s widespread religions seem to have overlapping beliefs which they derive from their own sacred texts and traditions, and many of the “messages” are similar. But Christians, perhaps partly because of where they were born and raised, and sometimes by conversion experiences or arguments, believe that the best and truest way to salvation is through following Jesus.


  37. I like “incarnational,” but I think I prefer “sacramental.”
    In the limitations of human understanding and in the very human words of the Bible is God’s Word.


  38. I can accept that, Rick. Trustworthy may indeed be better.

    I probably chose “true ” because I want to make the point that “true” does not always equal precise or historically accurate. Even fictional stories (parables anyone?) can be true.


  39. The human component of the tradition is the easiest to demonstrate and the most controversial. The Divine component of the tradition is the least controversial but the hardest to demonstrate.


  40. True in the sense of a conversation that leads to Jesus, not in terms of a “flat book” that equally expresses truth in all its parts. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I see accommodation and development and multi-vocality in scripture.


  41. I think the key “evangelical belief” or, rather, emphasis is probably a stress on conversionism. IMO, this is not something to unequivocally celebrate.


  42. Yes. These are conversations I can’t have at church or with friends. The discussions I’ve had in the past have been just rehashing how great the Bible is, not the reality of what it is or isn’t. The iMonk discussions have been most helpful.


  43. “…point to the cynicism of Ecclesiastes…”

    There is nothing cynical about Koheleth’s point of view. World-weary perhaps. This life is all you have. Know your limitations. Accept your lot as ordained by God and enjoy the good things of life you’ve been blessed with. This is a major strain of traditional Jewish piety.


  44. The conversations about what the Bible is, what it isn’t, how it ‘works,’ etc., have been the great contribution of the IM writers and community to my own faith, life, and ministry. I’m grateful.


  45. Good stuff, CM. I think I agree with most of your points. Well written and thoughtful.

    One idea for you to consider…

    –> “The Bible is true. ‘True’ is a better way of describing the Bible than ‘inerrant’ or ‘infallible’ or any such words that grow out of modern categories.”

    I like the term “Trustworthy” better, as in “The Bible is trustworthy.” I think trustworthiness works at a level that claiming it is “truth” can’t, especially with those who challenge that there’s any truth in it at all. It allows me to point to all the stories and elements that paint God or “religion” in a poor light, or point to the cynicism of Ecclesiastes, and suggest that those things being IN IT are reasons it can be trusted as a source of what God wants us to know about Him and our relationship to Him. I think it also helps with the idea that some things have been lost in translation or misinterpretation.

    Just something for you to mull on.


  46. > THEIR interpretations of the Bible are without error


    Also, it is often the case that the focus hot-spots for inerrentcy are those things which require the least courage or sacrifice for the one who so ardently assert them.


  47. > it seems indisputable to me that


    > How would I read these early texts …

    As texts written by people for whom mono-theism was an as yet unbirthed idea.

    I grew up with ‘traditional’ Norse/Scandanavian/Finnish content swimming comfortably alongside Lutheran Protestantism. I wonder if in part that is the reason the Old Testament bothers me so little. While I do not believe in a “literal” Väinämöinen I feel no need to officially discard the Kalevala (or all the notions there in); this is ancient writing. Certainly the Bible is “more” than the Kalevala… but is it “different”? National/tribal identity recorded in folklore. I don’t feel any discord in holding Scripture in high-esteem at the same time seeing it for what it is.

    > what is a “true” journey?

    Does “truth” require “precision”? That is much of the question, IMO. Truth is a great weebly wobbly thing, with a center, but that smears in this or that direction in different times or contexts; or needs.


  48. “Amid the decades-long decline in mainline Protestantism in North America, researchers in Canada recently found an “elusive sample” of congregations whose growth has bucked the trend.

    The key characteristic these exceptional Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and United churches had in common? Evangelical theology.

    With fewer evangelicals and more secular surroundings than their brethren in the United States, Canada’s mainline denominations collectively lost half of their members over the past 50 years. Last year, a team of sociologists suggested that conservative theological beliefs—including emphasis on Scripture as the “actual word of God” and belief in the power of prayer—may be the saving grace keeping attendance up at 9 of 22 Ontario churches studied.”


  49. How is “true” (6th point) defined if there are “multiple voices, a diversity of narrative and theological perspectives, and development of thought over time.” (3rd point)?

    As one example (and I’m fine being challenged on this) it seems indisputable to me that, as the narrative goes, the Hebrews initially believed in the existence of many gods. These other gods were not “demons”. They were other gods. Their thought and theology developed over time to become thoroughly monotheistic. How would I read these early texts (early in relation to the chronology of the narrative) as “true”?

    Many have described the Bible as, for the Christian at least, reflecting a (Christotelic) journey or argument and change…but the text is not flat. If that is correct, what is a “true” journey?


  50. Chaplain Mike, your view of the Bible seems far more respectful of it than the views of those folks who claim that it is ‘inerrant’ in all of its details (but really mean that THEIR interpretations of the Bible are without error). I appreciate you sharing your opinion with us and I find much in it to admire and agree with.


  51. Prima Scriptura makes me nervous, tho being nervous is better than being angry at the oxymoronic Reformed Sola Scriptura. Looking around at all the various folks who hold to Prima Scriptura is proof enough for me that this road map has as many destinations as readers. In particular I think the Protestant wing never recovered its balance after Martin Luther’s wild ride thru, but I would say the Wesleyan Quadrilateral comes as close to balance as we can get, that is until I look at some Methodists or Wesleyans or Nazarenes.

    I learned a lot about “inspiration” volunteering as proof-reader and copy editor for a woman who, I am convinced, receives a genuine message directly from God daily on a much higher level than the “Jesus Calling” books. Pointing out typos and misspellings was relatively easy, tho sometimes I had to go back and forth to get her to see an unintentional double word or a missing word. But sometimes I would say “this word does not mean what you think it means and it will only confuse people or make them think God is stupid” to no avail. You don’t tinker with God’s word. Also she, being of grandmotherly age, often used words or metaphors or expressions that I was sure young people would be clueless about. This helped me see how we ended up with head-scratchers in the Bible.

    I would say the Bible was given to us to point the way to our salvation at whatever level we find ourselves, but then we would be back at trying to define what “salvation” is. Both the Bible and humanity seem to inhabit a ten story apartment building with people trying to cram everyone and the Bible into one floor or another. You’ll find me out on the fire escape.


  52. I know I’ve said this before – but the contains-different-perspectives thing – which is a frequent hang-up – is very well illustrated by spending some time in the Talmud. Sections of that are EXPLICITLY ORGANIZED as this-that / arguement-counterarguement / debate. The Talmud is the text of the very people who collected, collated, and protected Scripture for centuries. The Talmud’s explicitness like this made it easier to go back and see many of the same dynamics in Scripture; that the Hebrew’s were a nation … and what nation is all of one mind about anything? Difference is not error, it is each ‘team’ representing a legitimate perspective.


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