Words About The Ocean: 5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About The Bible

Young man reading small Bible

The Bible.

Christians talk about it all the time, though I never quite know what they mean when they do. That is to say, other than the easily tossed-off catch phrase “God’s Word,” I’m not sure what the Bible is to many who claim it as the sacred text that guides their lives. I’m positive we’re not all on the same page, so to speak.

Often, I think Christians want to make the Bible something that it isn’t or don’t want to admit what it actually could be, and it makes for some really disastrous conversations and some extremely dangerous assumptions, especially in interactions with other Christians.

Here are 5 things about the Bible that I wish more believers would consider:


1) The Bible isn’t a magic book, it’s a human library.

It isn’t The Good Book.

As my good friend Pastor Talbot Davis and my beloved Good Shepherd Church family has always said; the Bible isn’t a book at all, it’s a library.

Its 66 individual books run the diverse gamut of writing styles, (poetry, history, biography, church teachings, letters), and those books have dozens of authors; from shepherds, to prophets, to doctors, to fishermen, to kings. These diverse writers each had very different target audiences, disparate life circumstances, and specific agendas for their work; so we don’t approach each book the same way, for the same reason you wouldn’t read a poem about leaves, the same way you read a Botany textbook. Some are for inspiration and some for information; we receive and see them differently.

And this library didn’t fall from the sky, leather-bound, shrink wrapped, and personally autographed by God. It was collected and collated over hundreds and hundreds of years, often in verbal form for decades before being written down; after which time it was assembled and voted on, translated, and translated, and translated again; hopping from language to language in the process.

What most Christians don’t give much thought to, is the fact that the Bible was a living, breathing collection of sayings (and later writings) composed over time—lots of time. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of years. It was absolutely “inspired by God”, but composed by a group of very human people who existed in a particular place and time in history, sharing their experience of God and the convictions of their faith.

If we can see the Scriptures this way; as many diverse works in one collection, we can free ourselves from always taking the entire text literally; from trying to equate history with allegory with poetry, and reading them in the same way. We can also can see the Bible as a record not just of God, but of God’s people, and we can find ourselves within it.


2) The Bible doesn’t clearly say as much as we’d like it to.

Often (especially when arguing with someone else), Christians like to begin with the phrase, “The Bible clearly says” followed by their Scripture sound bite of choice.

Those people usually haven’t actually read the entire Bible.

The Bible is a massive library, (somewhere around three-quarters of a million words), and if we’re honest, contains a great deal of tension and a whole lot of gray on all types of subjects. For example, we can read the clear Old Testament commandment from God not to murder, and later see Jesus telling his disciples that violence isn’t the path his people are to take, but we also see God telling the Israelites to destroy every living thing in enemy villages, (women and children included), and we read of Moses murdering an Egyptian soldier without recourse from God, and later being chosen by God to lead His people.

That’s why some Christians believe all violence is sinful, while others think shooting someone in self-defense is OK. Some find war justifiable in some cases, while some believe all war is inherently immoral. Some think the death penalty is something God is cool with, while others find it detestable. Some Bible readers see Jesus as an absolute pacifist, while other cite him telling his disciples to grab a sword, as evidence that he sanctions physical violence on occasion.

Same Bible. One subject. Countless perspectives.

So what does the Bible clearly say about violence? Does it make an absolute statement or is there some ambiguity? Seems clearly muddy.

Many times, when Christians say the phrase “The Bible clearly says”, what they really mean is, “The way I interpret this one tiny, isolated verse (which seems to reference this particular topic), allows me to feel justified in having this particular perspective on said topic”.

When you read and study this library in its totality, there are certainly themes and continuities and things that connect exquisitely, but if we’re honest we can also admit there are as many ambiguities regarding violence, money, sex, faith, prayer, and a hundred other topics.

It doesn’t diminish the Scriptures to admit their complexity and their lack of clarity.


3) The Bible was inspired by God, not dictated by God.

Christians will often rightly say, that the Bible was “inspired by God” and I completely agree. However, I think that idea often gets terribly twisted in translation and we take huge liberties with it that simply defy logic and history and the Scriptures themselves.

The Bible is “God’s Word” but I don’t think it’s at all accurate to see the Bible as “written” by God. In fact the Bible never makes the claim of itself. The authors of the books often claim personal authorship, and clearly describe their specific reasons for writing and their circumstances and mental state during the process. They rarely claim that in that time, God had possessed them, taken over their minds and limbs and faculties, and physically manipulated them to record verbatim, the words we read in the Scriptures.

These are the words of men, who were compelled by God to tell, not only what they claim to have heard God say, but things that were happening in and around them; struggles they had, personal reasons for writing, and their specific experience of God. Of course they were inspired by God, but they remained inspired human beings, not God-manipulated puppets who checked their free will at the door and transcribed God’s monologues.

I would argue that every Christian who has ever lived has been inspired by God, filled by His Spirit. I would certainly hope so. I often feel quite sure that God is inspiring me when I write or compose music or give messages; that I am intimately connected with Him. Does that mean that I don’t bring a whole lot of me to the table too? Of course not. That’s been true of every Christ-follower from Mother Teresa, to C.S. Lewis, to the Reverend Billy Graham.

Is it reasonable to assume that the same can’t be said for Moses, David, Matthew, and Paul; that we get as much of them in their writing as we get God’s direct voice? The book of Timothy says that The Scriptures are “God-breathed”, that they originate from God, but it doesn’t claim that they are God-dictated.

How can we find a balanced understanding of words that come from God to us in the Bible, but do so passing through the hearts and hands of other flawed, fragile followers from history?


4) We all pick and choose the Bible we believe, preach, and defend.

One of the greatest criticisms Christians like to level at another Christian whose opinions deviate from their own, is that he or she is “cherry picking” from the Bible; holding tightly to verses that they agree with and championing those, while conveniently jettisoning ones they are uncomfortable with. It’s a common way to belittle another’s Biblical interpretation and minimize their differing perspective, charging them with selective spirituality.

The only problem is, each time this assertion is made the one making the accusation conveniently claims complete objectivity; as if they somehow have a firm, dispassionate understanding of the entirety of Scripture, without bias or prejudice, and that the other is violating that by subjectively commandeering the text.

The good (or bad news, depending on how you view it) is that we all have our own Bible, made somewhat in our image. There are as many specific individual interpretations of Scripture in history as there have been readers of it. Our understanding and belief about the Bible is a product of our upbringing, our denomination or tradition, the amount of study we’ve had, the friends we’ve lived alongside, the pastors and professors we’ve learned under, the area of the world we live in, the experiences we have, as well as our own personality, prejudices, and preferences.

There aren’t two followers of Jesus who have ever been found in total agreement on the 66 books of the Bible since they were recorded, and so we all have a personalized Scripture, despite our desire to claim otherwise. We all cherry pick, even when we think we are not.

Is it really fair to ever accuse someone else of selectively using Scripture, unless we’re prepared to cop to the same crime in the process?


5) God is bigger than The Bible.

This past week I took a walk along the beach, taking in the ocean. For those who’ve ever done so, you understand the vastness; the staggering beauty and power, the relentless force of the tides. You know well, those glorious sounds, the scent of the air, the sand beneath your feet, the unfathomable colors of the sunset, the smallness you feel; the overwhelming scale of creation that you find yourself face-to-face with.

Billions and Billions of words have been written down about the ocean. I could gather up every single one of them; the most beautiful, vivid, accurate descriptions from fisherman and marine biologists and children and poets and vacationers. I could read every last, most eloquent word about the ocean to someone who has never been there, and it would never, ever do it justice.

There’s simply no way to adequately describe the ocean in words. You simply have to experience it.

I wish more Christians would admit that the Bible, at its very best, at it’s most powerful and inspired, is just a collection of words about the ocean.

God is the ocean.

God is the thing and the Bible is made up of words about the thing, and those words point to something (to Someone) for Whom words simply fail. That doesn’t mean the words aren’t filled with good and lovely things that give us some frame of reference, some understanding, some insight, but ultimately God is far too big to be contained in those words. God is awe and wonder and mystery and ineffable.

The Bible is not God, the Bible is a library filled with words about God. We can discover and explore and find comfort there. We can gain wisdom and grow in faith through it. We can seek the character of God and the message of Christ and the path we’re to walk within its pages.

We can even love the Bible (I certainly do), but we should worship the God who inspired the Bible.


I expect many Christians will dismiss these things outright and refuse to engage at all, but my hope and prayer is that many of you claim Christianity will examine your own understanding of the Bible and see if there isn’t something in the above words that merits consideration; not to alter your love or admiration of Scripture, but to allow you to engage in conversations about it that have some nuance, some balance, some grey, and some Grace; especially when dealing with those whose understandings differ from yours.

When you say “The Bible”, what do you mean?

 

 

107 thoughts on “Words About The Ocean: 5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About The Bible

    • The idea of salvation is something that Evangelicals focus on, yet they
      tend to not know from where it comes?

      The gospel of John alludes to this, but Paul is the one that speaks of
      salvation thru belief alone, and even Paul in his letters doesn’t go so
      far as to equate Jesus with the Father, as one–that came much later.

      The letter of James is adamant that belief alone is not enough, that one
      has to actually work towards salvation, ie. by giving away your wealth,
      and as in the commissioning of his disciples, to not take anything, to not
      receive anything.

      So from where does our current conceptualization of SALAVATION,
      comes?

      • James says that our belief should lead us to do good works, but it is my interpretation that works do not save us. I believe in James 2, he is saying that if your faith is not strong enough that you feel compelled to do works of faith, then your faith is insufficient. Paul speaks of works in Ephesians 2. He says, “For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This is where most people stop, but the next sentence is my favorite. “For we are his workmanship, created in Jesus for good works, that God prepared beforehand, that we should walk onto them.” I’m sure you’ve read the above article and therefore understand that each person perceives the Bible differently, and each person writing it had a different perspective. It is my perspective, however, that James and Paul do not contradict each other at all. James speaks of testing one’s faith through works, and so does Paul. James is not saying that works save people, he is just saying that a faith that dies not result in action is not really faith at all. I pray that these words will glorify God and speak to you, but please correct me if you disagree with them!

      • No, you do not gain salvation through works! James said that faith without works is a dead faith not works are the path to salvation. Below is Eph 2:4-9. Paul CLEARLY states that salvation is from GRACE and grace alone. That grace is from God/Jesus and is provided because of his death and resurrection. Paul reiterated this concept many times and James does NOT counter this argument. James is saying that if you truly have faith your “works” (or fruit) will be the proof. Works (or fruit) are the output of being connected to Christ (vine and branches). Works are not the input and salvation the output.

      • Sorry, left out the Eph verses

        4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

      • I love your input! Thank You! This is exactly what we looked at for a long time, but never long enough. Yes! Your analogies of Paul and Peter are exactly what we saw… and we also saw why, we think. When we studied this, we are always looking at “who is God talking to?” There is always directive… who is God talking to about what, when? “All of the bible is FOR us, but not all of the bible is TO us”

        The first sentence of James says he is speaking to those under law who were scattered. Under Jewish laws, even Peter taught: Be baptized, continue in the law (Peter in the beg of Acts is always addressing Jews in synagogues) and believe. Peter always taught requirements and Paul was the only who stated: Just believe. When the 12 started to die, it was then that Paul was raised up in Acts. We are first called Christians in Antioch, not in Acts 1. “All of the bible is FOR us, but not all of the bible is TO us”

        Jesus coming to rule the world thru Israel was the old test-plan, but Israel rejected him with the final blow being Steven, filled with the holy spirit, they killed him themselves. 1) John the Baptist, God’s prophet, they murdered him by a request. 2) Jesus, they demanded his death. 3) They knashed their teeth and killed him (Steven speaking by the holy spirit) themselves. Jesus told us: Deny the father, deny me, but not the holy spirit. At that point, Israel clearly denied all 3. And at this point Paul was raised and the 12 were beginning to die. “All of the bible is FOR us, but not all of the bible is TO us”

        God’s original intent, clearly seen in Old Testament, was to rule the world thru Israel with Jesus as King. The 12 were the beginning of that government. That didn’t happen, not yet anyway. As the 12 began to perish, and they were not replaced, God raised up Paul, with the pure message of grace: Believe and you will receive… not based on any of our work, but only the work of Jesus. This was the first time that message had ever been stated in mankind, in the word: no one else was given that administration to give to the world. “Believe in Jesus and the he was raised from the dead and you will be saved” No more requirements, except to believe.

        But, we can see the struggle between Paul and Peter in Galatians, and I believe Paul sets the course for them. Peter to the Jews, and Paul to the Gentiles. Many out there only knew of salvation thru the Law, and to be proselytized, many were just learning of the Grace administration given to Paul, as he states about this administration given to him for us: “Never before known to the son’s of man” Ephesians. Remember the man in the desert who had only heard of the baptism of Jesus? that’s all he knew, he didn’t know about Peter’s requirements or Paul’s message of Grace or what they were speaking.

        And so it is today, we try and muddy the waters by making what Peter taught the Jews to fit into what Paul teaches to all of mankind, and they don’t fit. They Don’t. I love it when Paul says: “And I told him to his face stop telling them they have to be baptized! Stop!) Same Jesus, different times&ministries. Peter ministered to Jews following law and had a hard time understanding what Paul was teaching about pure Grace, he speaks about this directly. “All of the bible is FOR us, but not all of the bible is TO us”

        Paul was raised up and for the first time we see even gentiles can believe w/out being proselytized into Judaism. This was/is huge. Paul is also the only one who would say: “There is no difference between jew or gentile… etc… ) You would never never see Peter say that… And you will never see Paul say: Faith = Works. This is what Paul does say about faith: “For the life I live I live by the Faith from the Son of God… it is a gift, so no one can boast.” But we turn mis guide faith into works so quickly bc of James’ message to his scattered Jewish-brethren. So today, I see a message for Jews under law, and a message about the work only Jesus could do in Grace being bottled up into one message. For me that is sad and anti-thetical to the work only God can and did do- and this is where all the mis-conceptions/confusions/ladder climbing comes from and why so many requirements are in churches today, because we don’t know the difference between what was Jewish, and what is Grace, based on the work of Jesus, not man’s on going work on himself (another topic entirely but not salvation) for us today…We put Peter and Paul into the same message, and they had entirely different callings/messages to different people for different times. Same Jesus, different ministries to different people.

        It’s funny bc it’s easy to not follow the Levitical laws, but we want the laws Moses even all over the government… and the law is nice, but it doesn’t come close to saving us. And I would never say the entire bible isn’t valuable and resourceful and helpful. But understanding what is for us, and what is to us today is a huge reality check. In Timothy somewhere he exhorts us to: ” right-fully divide and accurately handle the word of God.” Unless you have people (teachers) who can teach meat, take this thing apart, try to seek out and humbly (what is humble except Jesus) understand who God is talking to? About what? When? The bible can remain a confusing mess. And you hear: “Well, I can’t understand it, so no one can but God” I can’t either, but it’s fascinating to be around gifted teachers/people who can and attempt to see things based on God’s written directives: Who is God talking to about what and when?

        The Bible really does give us all the tools&beyond detail to attempt we just want it all to apply directly to us, and not do the work that’s necessary to understand some things… or seek someone who might… Paul warns us about ignorance as what will kill us. So when you take it apart you can see the unity, If you keep trying to see it as one book, only one story, for one group of people, mainly YOU in the 21st century than it’s pretty confusing, that is my take anyway bc going to war, stealing their woman as your own, that being lawful in the laws of Leviticus wouldn’t go over so well today… and so I truly believe we have to treat the entire bible w/such delicate- study to try and understand the best we can: Who is God talking to about what when? And, sure there is milk for everyone, He said so.

        For me, as you stated, it’s a beautiful story. God shows us how beautifully how un-capable mankind is from innocence to Governments to the laws of Leviticus and Moses… and then after all have failed, failed, failed- Bam he gives us the only thing that can save man: Grace. Pure, un-adulterated grace The only thing that can save man, past present and future. Cause our works certainly can’t… so when I hear, as I recently did: Faith = Works! Said with deliberation… why does that make me sad? Because Faith is the work only God can do in the administration of Grace… only God gave it as a gift, and we get to walk in it… it is not our work, it is His, and when we make it our responsibility, (as opposed to responsiveness to Him) we fail, we compare, we climb ladders… all reasons why Grace had to come so we could respond to this beautiful gift. He turned that ladder upside down.. So I say, give it to God, all of it, the work, thank you for the faith from God I get to walk in… but nothing I do can add to what Jesus did on the cross… So praise Jesus he did the WORK. That is motivating and exciting. And if it’s not, than that is your choice and free will in the matter, such is grace. So the 66 books, on different continents, times and languages make perfect- on-going-sense out of what might appear to me a mess, is an amazing design of perfection- to me. And we will all see it so differently, I know, I’m just being true to what goes thru. But when I stick to these pillars to guide me/us: Who is God talking to, about what? When? “All of the bible is FOR us, but not all of the bible is TO us” Things begin to fall into place, yet even so, can easily throw me off my rocker. Peace, and thanks for reading if you got this far, this is always heavy on my heart, feel free to correct me on any level. Peace,Hope and the Greatest Love.

      • Some good points, but it isn’t “belief,” but “faith.” The two aren’t the same thing. “Belief” is understanding that that huge building on the runway of the airport can actually get airborne, and take people to various places. It is, perhaps, understanding the principles that enable it to do so. “Faith” is getting on board and flying. That’s why James says that faith, in the sense of “belief,” isn’t anything. Paul, when he talks about faith, means that faith that results in our trusting Jesus and following him.

        • Thanks, the difference between faith and belief is important however, I think it’s important to remember context, which is my main and most important point. James is speaking to scattered, believing Jews that continued practicing law. He addresses this in the first sentence of the book of James. Who were they? What did they know about salvation? They understood&believed that Jesus was the long awaited one… and they continued in Moses law… The Nation of Israel rejected Jesus: many individuals, did not. Judaic salvation was numbered, (Acts) the bible tells us that Paul’s out reach IS NOT NUMBERED. Body of Christ. Paul’s ministry absolutely conflicts w/James&Peter on certain levels, according to Galatians. Halleluia.

      • I have always viewed this discrepancy as a difference based on audience. Paul is speaking to people whom he is hoping to convert and James is speaking to people of faith who want to know how to live in times of persecution. It’s sort of like Paul is saying “So you wanna be a tree” and James is saying “So you say you’re a tree.”

        And into this comes all the baggage about works and faith when the Bible pretty clearly teaches both. Those who favor a Sola Fide understanding seem to forget sonetimes that we worship a God who said “If you love me keep my commandments” and “Why do you call me lord and not do what I say?” And when asked about salvation cited the Law and said “do this and you will live.” I think the proper understanding is that no one comes to God except by grace, no one is saved except by faith, but no one lives the life of faith apart from works. “You are his handiwork created in him to do the works he ordained for you” <– and that's Paul.

        So it's both. Repent, be baptized, and believe for your salvation, and then do works in keeping with the fruits of salvation. This is what the Bible teaches. It is not either or it is both and.

  1. John–I LOVE LOVE LOVE this. You have the same fresh view on christianity as I do, and often, in our very sheltered and very strict area, others don’t quite understand my “incompetence” of our religion.

    I think, for me, the bible is just a general guideline. Exactly as you said. It definitely has a lot of good things to say, but I don’t always feel connected to God by reading a story that happened thousands of years ago. I do feel that these things have happened. We all know God works in amazing ways. But my REAL relationship with God is based more on how I feel when going about my daily life. When I’m having a particularly hard day and out of nowhere, I get a message from a dear friend “just thinking of you”. When I am working on a project no one knows of, but I get random encouragement from someone, who, though they may not know what I’m doing, somehow God has used them to deliver a message to me. Feeling comfort in a time of sorrow, feeling a hand on my shoulder helping to steer me when making a decision. He’s always there.

    God is ever present in my life, but I don’t feel connected to Him by the bible. Rather, I take it with a grain of salt, a suggestion by the stories of how to live life.

    Thanks for another great post! I’m always excited when I see a blog update in my email or on Facebook. Makes my day. 🙂

    -Erin

    • The Bible puts us in touch with a “cloud of witnesses” who have traveled the path of faith before us, so that we might know that we are not alone in our walk. It helps us understand how they dealt with the same questions we have, faced the same obstacles we face. Sometimes they give some answers to our questions – sometimes they question our answers. They are good friends, giving us advice, helping us to see what they have seen and experienced of God. To see them in this way, is to know that we are never alone, that there are others who have walked this path before; who have struggled as we have struggled; who have met God, who have struggled to find God, who have felt his presence and his absence. With them, we are never alone.

  2. Love this!!! The Bible is a great reference as to help one keep their moral compass pointed in the right direction. It is all that you describe above in your post.

    I have learned much about the “history of the Bible” and I have learned much about the translations. I figure if I am to try and follow a book and apply it to my life, I need to know how it came about!

    Each person should read the Bible for themselves, and Christ will reveal the scripture to them. The Holy Spirit will work in them. Do not rely on others’ interpretations, rely on God for the understanding.

    I have also read many other books such as Jesus>Religion, Cast of Characters Lost and Found, Grip of Grace, Before Amen, The Case For Christ, and so on. I have stacks of religious books to stay engaged in and wrap my head around the character of Jesus. I try to live my Christianity every day, all the time, just as God is every where, all the time.
    It is a way of life, NOT just on Sundays. Love God, Love others. It really is simple.

    You are right on when you say God is the ocean, how ever, he is so much more. To live abandon in him is truly what we are to do!! Amen on this blog.

  3. You asked what the Bible means to others. To me it is the Word of God. Since Jesus is the Word of God – to me the KJV equals Jesus. It is that part of Jesus given to man. I will agree there is more to God than the Bible, but the Bible contains all I need to know to be saved. For a more extensive commentary read Reaping the Whirlwind @ http://saltwaterheart.com

    • Just remember, that the KJV isn’t Jesus, however. It is, in a sense, his love letter to you, something to remind you of him as you go about your daily walk. But it isn’t him – just a reminder of him. It is meant to lead you to him, to remember him, to hold him deep in your heart, like a letter from a dear friend or a loved one, until you see them again. You may have a letter, a picture, things you have shared together – all of them touching off memories of time spent together and words shared. But when you are together again, all of that seems like nothing – you don’t even think to look at the picture, or the letter, or other mementos, because they are finally there. So these things draw us to his Spirit, and into his presence, so that we can be with him – him, and no longer just with reminders of him.

  4. Good heavens, I’ve been saying what you just said in this topic for a long long time. And no, a great many won’t listen to this, so I’ve found. I also say that trying to contain God in a book and saying that’s all there is, is like claiming to have caught the wind in a bottle. Thank you, John!

  5. I am fond of saying that The Bible gives us a literary lens to help us explore and focus our gifts of insight and discernment so that we may learn to see God more clearly. Like the lenses of a telescope you might use to see the Moon in greater detail. But if you somehow fixate yourself on staring at the lens, you’ll never see the Moon. Too much fixation on The Bible to the exclusion of nearly all else obscures God from us. It is a map to help us venture into Divine Mystery but is not the mystery itself. Some Christians all but turn the book into an object of idol worship.

    Thank you so deeply for your blog. I am blessed by every post I read. May God bless your message and your pilgrimage.

    • Most excellent! Luther said that the Bible is the “straw in which the Christ child lay.” But then, of course, he went on to say, “but, oh! What straw!” The Gospel, the good news about Jesus, he said, is the “lens” through which we view scripture. When we look at scripture, then, it is not just a story, not just verses to be cut and pasted into our life, not something to be applied willy-nilly and blindly followed – we always look through the lens of Christ, and ask, “How does this reveal Christ and the Gospel to us?”

    • Really? One small part of issues with religion and you ask his position on gay marriage? That’s like having a conversation about a friend getting married and you bringing up an argument why men shouldn’t be required to take out the trash. It’s provoking and intended to create a fight.

    • Even animals don’t practice it how can man with all God given wisdom and understanding demote himself to an action that even animals detest.

      • After reading this commentary all you can come up with is your own personal take on sex? Personally, I believe many folks use their Bibles as clubs when it comes to sexual behavior. Why are so many obsessed with the sexual behavior of others? Jesus did not seem overly concerned with sexual behavior. When Jesus did speak about it it was always with the context of forgiveness. Mainly Jesus focused on love and supporting one another. He was always reminding us our own behavior toward others was the main objective upon which we should focus and our own attitude should center around how we can be of service to others. I believe He was speaking to all of us. He admonished us not to judge and if we were to do so we should look first upon the status of our own hearts first before we cast stones at those we judged.

  6. Pingback: Notable: Opposing Views | John A Taylor

  7. The Bible makes a claim that most books do not. It claims to be from God. Unlike the few that make the claim, the Bible’s claim is true. This is the concept called “inspiration.” There are several things involved in considering the “inspiration of the Bible.”

    First, “inspiration” of the Bible means that it had a divine origin. The term “inspiration” is found in the New Testament one time (2 Tim. 3:16).

    “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.”

    The Greek word theopneustos is actually a compound term. Its two parts (theos and pneustos) literally mean “God-breathed.” For this reason, English translations render the word by the phrase “inspired of God,” rather than just “inspired.”

    Paul said that “scripture” is inspired of God. The word “scripture” comes from the Greek term graphe, which means “writings.” Paul was considering a specific body of writings. The word “scripture” is used in the Bible in a technical sense to distinguish writings whose origin is God, from those that originate with men. Practically speaking, the terms, “inspired of God” and “scriptures,” are interchangeable.

    The apostle said that “every” or “all” scripture is from God (not the mind of men). When Paul said that “every scripture” is inspired of God, he affirmed that the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms — the Lord’s three-fold designation of the Old Testament (Lk. 24:44) — were all from God. Both Old and New Testaments are called “scripture” (see 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Pet. 3:15-16; cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-13).

    Second, “inspiration of the Bible” means that God used prophetic agency. The writer of Hebrews referred to the human element in scripture when he said, “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets” (Heb. 1:1; emphasis added). The prophets were speaking; they were writing with pen and parchments. But, the words actually were God’s.

    The apostle Peter noted that “the word of prophecy” was of God’s design. In communicating his will, however, “men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

    The “inspiration” of the human writers did not mean that they were mere transcribers. God employed their human personalities and experiences in the process. Inspired men were not omniscient or personally infallible. But what they wrote was from the mind of God (not men or interpretation) — and it was recorded without error.

    They also used firsthand knowledge, the aid of eyewitnesses, and written sources in the composition of Scripture (cf. Lk. 1:1-4). All of these methods, however, were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with the guarantee of accuracy (cf. Jn. 16:13).

    Third, “inspiration of the Bible” means that this book is authoritative. The Bible is the final word in religious matters. As Paul discussed some doctrinal issues in Romans, he said, “What saith the scriptures?” (Rom. 4:3). The Lord charged the Sadducees, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures” (Mt. 22:29). What God has revealed is important when considering any religious matter.

    The Bible is the will of God. It is his authoritative word. For that reason, Jesus Christ said, “and the scriptures cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35). We cannot dismiss God’s written word. It is as authoritative as if God spoke directly from heaven (cf. Mt. 22:31; 2 Pet. 1:18-20).

    The fact is, the bible teaches truth on every matter of righteousness and principles to conducting our lives for pleasing God. To say the bible isn’t clear enough only means one has not grown with the Holy Spirits guidance in his or her walk yet on a matter. Or they are just flat being disobedient from lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)! It is the Christians responsibility to search Gods truth daily and adjust and change to it as he grows in the truth however difficult that may be. We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). We are NOT to accept our own personal understanding of His Word. Obedience to God is the standard by which we will be judged praise God. No, the bible is definitely not just a collection of writings from men. Its Gods pure and perfect Living Word to mankind.

    • I’m confused how it could be absolute and perfect with one set of rules when John CLEARLY STATES (no muddying) examples such as violence.

      I HAVE read it and did grow up with “religion” in my life until I decided to take a step back and love God, rather than be under the dictatorship that was presented to me.

      when I stopped allowing myself to be hit over the head with a big thumping Bible, I could better focus on the beauty of it.

      There is no way it is Gods Literal word. I would be very, very, worried about our God if so, as it’s very multi-personalitied.

    • Which version is the correct version to use? In my years of study, I have found there are so many versions out there, and some have even left out some scriptures etc. It has been translated in to different languages, including English. Enjoyed reading your post on here. 🙂

    • Nas50th I agree with you. “The Bible is not just a collection of writings from men. It is God’s pure and perfect Living Word to mankind.” As I read this blog I felt that the author was minimizing the truth found in scripture and saying that it was optional, suggested, not “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” The Bible is complete and perfect and gives us all we need for a walk of faith in Christ.

    • When Paul wrote that “all scripture is given…” the only scripture that existed was the Old Testament. Letters from the disciples to the churches were considered just that…letters, much the same way you’d love to get a letter from Billy Graham, but you wouldn’t consider it scripture. Because of this the letters we have in the New Testament were copied and sent on to other churches to read, and then in turn were copied and sent on. And NONE of the codex we have today is a carbon copy of any other one. What most people don’t know was that the heads of the churches felt free to change things they disagreed with, or add their opinion. Thus we have “Paul” saying women shouldn’t be allowed to speak in church, only to find out that that scripture was added in the third century, long after Paul was gone. So, was Paul’s letters absolute scripture, or does the injunction to not “take away or add to”, apply to all of the New Testament, and are the people who changed Paul’s letters cursed?

      • From 2nd Peter 3:

        “So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.”

        Paul’s writings were considered to be scripture, not just letters.

    • I’m familiar with the arguments; unfortunately, they don’t hold water. Sorry. Consult your Greek, and you’ll find that “inspired” can be inspiration as found in a poem, etc. as well, which was also believed to be inspired by the gods. It does not imply perfection in every aspect, or factuality, even. It does mean that God speaks “through” an event, a person, a writing, to bring them understanding, a greater depth of faith, etc. in the same way that, perhaps, a person, viewing a beautiful sunset might be reminded of Psalm 8, and led to closeness with God.

      As far as the passages concerning the inspiration of scripture, remember that the cannon of scripture was not fixed until far later – much of the New Testament was not even written as of yet. The writer was simply saying that God “speaks through” and inspires what was written – referring to the Torah. He was encouraging people to read the Torah for inspiration and wisdom – a common theme in the Old Testament, particularly in the wisdom literature. And certainly the Bible does not teach on every matter, nor is it a simple book of answers to our questions on morality – if God had wanted that, I suppose the whole of it might look more like Proverbs, perhaps with appendixes and such to look up answers. It would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? Instead, we are brought into the midst of the lives of those who struggled with these questions before, and see what answers they came up with – and they do differ from one to another. What they hold in common is the faith that they share in the God, who they believe, holds the answers to their life. And, no, obedience is not the standard by which God judges us – it is our faith and love, for God and one another, as Matthew makes clear in 25:31-46. As the campfire song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

    • You use Paul as an example of “all scripture is from God”. At the time of Paul the only existing scripture was the Torah. There were many texts floating around in the first 4 centuries. It was one group of MEN who decided what writings would be defined as THE one and only group of books to be looked upon as a HOLY book for those who were followers of ORTHODOX Christianity at the time it was compiled. Since that time there have been splits from the Orthodox church and many renderings of interpretations of the first Bible. Who exactly declared the compilation of those writings in the 4th century to be the divinely inspired Word of God? Men. So if indeed one is to follow the divinely inspired word there should be no new versions needed. As Jon has pointed out it is a collection of books and stories in which many scenarios are examined and admonishments given to a varied population. I would also like to point out that Jesus was a Jew which many seem to gloss over or forget. The Word/Law he spoke of and followed was the Torah. He even said He did not come to abolish the Law. There was much disagreement among the first teachers of the Way about whether or not Gentiles were to follow the Law. One said yes and encouraged circumcision and the Hebrew diet. While yet another said Gentiles were not subject to Jewish Law and what came out of the mouth was more important than what went in . In the first century there were over 100 different groups teaching their own interpretations of the “good news” of Christ’s teachings. Today in America we have over 33,800+ groups recognized as Christian. Each one differs in some way from the others and each one claims authority over the others. Many look upon the others as cults and purport to have the only TRUTH . I believe faith is a personal decision that should not be dictated by any one group . We are after all still and always flawed human beings and none of us can truthfully say we have never sinned (for ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God). When we seek to judge rather than uplift we hurt others and that is not what Jesus told us to do. That’s probably why He pointed it out. I also believe there is much personal comfort and common sense to be found in the “scriptures” and highly agree with Jon in his summation. I think a lot of people blindly follow the assumptions of their pastor or their church doctrine without knowing the background and history of their church itself and how the Holy Bible came to be the “indisputable” “word”. Much of what people today have difficulties understanding are parables, but you need to know something about the times in which these parables were written in order to get an inkling of what was meant. There are idioms of the times modern folks know nothing about and can not make a comparison to aid them in understanding them. The same goes for understanding some of the OT (like Daniel). You have to know the history of the times to put certain stories into the proper context. Jesus did not compile the Bible we know today and He was not referring to it when He spoke of scriptures or Law. He was referring to the Torah.

  8. The Bible says that “there is a name that is above every name.” That name is Jesus. Several Christian fundamentalists have corrected me on this over the years, and this is what they all said:

    “No. That’s wrong. There is a name that is above every name, and that name is “Bible.”

    Really. I am not kidding. That is what they said.

    I attended a conservative Southern Baptist Convention Church in the 1980s. One morning in Sunday school class, the teacher for the day read the first verse in the Book of John. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

    Then she pushed her bible into one hand and lofted it high above her head and uttered these words:

    “See this. THIS IS GOD.” She did not understand that the verse was referring to the person of Jesus Christ—not a book—and she was an English literature major.

    This was one of the principal reasons I left that church—along with a lot of other crazy stuff they were doing.

    One has to remember—always remember—that Christian fundamentalism is not foundational 1st century Christianity. Instead, it is a late 19th and early 20th century American religious movement founded in the United States and dedicated to meanness, belligerence, and ignorance. It was founded to protect the Bible from perceived threats in German higher criticism, from modernism, and from any viewpoint about the Bible other than the one held by the Christian fundamentalism of that time and place in American history. It is next to impossible to move a Christian fundamentalist away from the position that he—and only he—understands what the Bible really says. Anyone who does not believe the Bible in that exact same way cannot possibly be a Christian and all of them are doomed to Hell.

    Some days I feel sorry for them. Some days I feel it might be nice to round them all up and exterminate them—not because they are right in their beliefs and the evil within me wants to destroy their truth—but rather because it amazes me that anyone would allow such personal arrogance and stupidity to exist on the Earth and use it to drive millions of people away from Jesus. As I have often said, “Christian fundamentalism is quite possibly the single biggest atheist maker on this planet.”

    • Just to clarify, my comment about rounding them up is more along the lines of when a boyfriend or spouse drives you absolutely nuts and you say, “Sometimes I’d just like to kill that man.” We have all been there on rare occasions. We do not really mean it—just the heat of the moment—and we would never actually hurt anyone.

  9. I must say that when I first clicked on the post, I thought this was going to be some atheistic rant about how the Bible was totally unreliable and should be written off entirely. I’m glad I was proven wrong.

    Nicely done, well thought out, and well reasoned.

  10. Your writings are definitely “inspired by God”. And a blessing to me. I have often tried to express my own feelings, understanding, etc., about many subject you write about like being hurt by the church, LGTB community, and now the Bible, but you can express it much more clearly than I could even imagine. There are so many complications, twists & turns in my children’s lives that keep them away from God. All of which you’ve touch on in your blogs. I then repost for them to hopefully read & have healthy seed laid.
    Just like the vast authors of the Bible, you also are inspired by God which then do the same thing as the biblical books do…inspire others & our relationship with God.

  11. Wow! Lots to think about with this post on the Bible. I personally believe the Bible is the Word of God, which is Jesus. I believe God is sovereign and therefore he has made sure that everything in the Bible is just the way he wants it. I believe there is power in the word of God (aka the Bible) and have experienced it. It should not be worshipped but read with prayerful direction. I believe it is not just a book or collection of stories but the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

    • Sheri, I would say that “Jesus is the Word of God.” The Bible is witness to the Eternal Word – which is Jesus. It reveals him to us. Without it, we wouldn’t know much about him, which is what makes it so precious to us. So we hold it high in our esteem – as I have said above, as one might hold on to letters and mementos of a loved one, that remind us “of all he did and said,” until the one we love is with us once more. It is not the loved one – but contains what they said, what they did, and helps us to remember and hold them in our heart while they are away. In the case of the Bible, they “inspire,” they light the fire of the Spirit within us, and bring us into his presence. So, no – they are not to be worshiped, since they are neither God nor Jesus; but they are to be treasured, since they are a gateway to his presence.

  12. Thank you so much for writing and posting this! I am a Christian and I see the Bible as a way to learn about God and to take lessons out of the books that were written to help us understand Him maybe just a little bit more and to walk the path He would like us to. There are so many conflicting things in the Bible and people tend to focus a lot on those aspects of it but they are the perspectives of the people who wrote them in the culture of the time and in the environment they were brought up in and as we all know that perspective is only relative to the person perceiving it. Hence the discrepancies and conflicts in the Bible. It is also refreshing that a leader such as yourself is open to the ideas you have written about and encourage growing and learning not just blind accepteptence and continued “cherry picking”.

    Wendy

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  14. I am so happy I found your blog, John! You eloquently and intellectually express the feelings I have had as a Christian for years. I had begun to believe that I was ‘outside the faith’ because I didn’t share the fundamentalists’ closed-minded views and interpretations of Jesus and the Bible. Thank you for helping me feel reconnected to the faith I love by knowing there are other Christians who think and believe like me.

  15. I feel much the same as you do. I say, with people who can handle my thoughts, that the Bible is a great tool to help guide us. Follow your heart, let God show you the way through love and kindness. Inspired by God yes but it is written by man and man is imperfect. I normally shy away from this conversation because so many cannot handle the discussion. Kudos to you for opening that door with such well written thoughts.

  16. I have always wondered about something. One of the things I hear often is:

    “We decided to attend that church because it was a Bible-believing church. You see. My husband and I have a long history of making poor decisions in our lives—both individually and together. Given 5 choices on what to do with a given issue, and Choice No. 3 is the worst thing a person could possibly do, we would inevitably pick Choice No. 3. The people at our new church assured us that every word in the Bible is perfect, true, infallible, and inerrant. Because of this, if we go to the Bible when making a decision and look at what it says about the issue, we can always rest assured that we will make the right decision.

    Back in the 1960s, they told us that expanding our minds with illegal drugs was the way to go in life to find true happiness—so we went. When that didn’t work, others told as that free communal love was the answer instead, so we ran over there—and it got us into real trouble. Then they told us that…and we ran over there—and it really destroyed our lives.”

    Finally, someone told us the Bible is the answer. We just needed that Biblical central anchor of absolute and total CERTAINTY in our lives. We live in a culture and a world that is changing so rapidly, so complexly, and so confusingly that it is just very hard to know what to do sometimes. It just makes our heads swim. Once again, we just needed that totally reliable central anchor—something standing perfectly still and firm in the middle of all the swirl around it—that the Bible provides.”

    Questions:

    1) Are there really people so utterly stupid that they cannot look at the facts in their lives, evaluate a problem, and come to a wise solution without their Bibles. Are there really millions, upon millions, upon millions, upon millions of people that are that %$#@ stupid?

    2) It also occurs to me that a person that stupid is going to read their infallible and totally certain Bible, misunderstand what they are reading, and go out to make some more stupid decisions. What do you think?

    • I think a lot of people need certainty, in a world that seems to lack clarity. They look to the Bible – or to other things, like science, or some authoritative figure, for that. I had a young woman, very intelligent, with a PhD in Engineering, in my congregation in Pittsburgh, who came from one of those churches that believed the Bible to be an answer book. She loved our congregation, but after a while, finally left to go back to her church. She said she needed the rules; she needed certainty. She needed things, somewhere in her life, to be simple – black and white.

      The Bible does not give us that – sorry to say, for those who need it. Those who claim that it is an answer book always have to find ways around its many caveats. There is a story, about Jesus being asked by the religious teachers, “Are you the Messiah? Tell us clearly!” Jesus says that he has already told them, but they won’t believe. In fact, he has said no such thing. But he points them to what he has done, the intimations of who he is. If he were to simply say, “Yes, I am!” it would have provided fodder for a discussion; it would have been clear, but not opened the door to discipleship. For that, they needed faith. They needed to walk with him, as disciples. Only faith, “the evidence of things not seen,” paradoxically, gives certainty (which does not mean that we no longer question, or have all of our questions answered, either!). It is only faith that stills our heart, because it places us in our Father’s hands, and tells us that we will be safe there, whatever comes. If the scriptures are a guide, then their purpose is to guide us to the Father’s arms. The rest is adiaphora – things that are interesting, or perhaps even important, but compared to the “main” thing, are “things of no account.”

  17. I think that most Christians are pretty much there on that. Do you really want us to say all that every time we talk about the Bible, or is it possible that you could start taking us a little less literally?

  18. I’ll take the Bible as 100% truth. All of it is from God the Author and written by different writers. God has the power to do anything and I believe he would have given us a book we call the Bible with nothing but the truth in it’s contents. Keep spreading the truth my friends.

  19. I can’t say I agree 100%, but of course … that makes your point. I do see the bible as a collection, but also a complete story of God and His love for His creation. Love your perspective … it helps me see a clearer picture of an ever increasingly unfathomable God.

  20. Dear John,

    I cannot say enough good and positive and thankful words for what you write and how you write. Just know that you are sincerely appreciated. Many thanks.

    Be well,

    Matt

  21. “When you say “The Bible”, what do you mean?”

    I accept The Bible as a history of the Jewish people. Like other history books, one must take into consideration the customs, mores, and political and religious climate of the eras when it was written (or translated or copied).

  22. You say that you are inspired by God when you write or compose or give messages. In those moments, how are your words the same as what is in the Bible? How are they different?

      • I’m saying that every person who follows Jesus, who has the same Holy Spirit within them, has been inspired by God and has been led to try and communicate God and His love and message to others. When David, or Matthew, or Paul wrote the books they are credited to have written in the Bible, they don’t claim God possessed them and took over their minds and bodies when it happened. They don’t claim that God wrote it, but that God inspired them or compelled them to do so. They simply said that they received inspiration or words or guidance from God.

        You can believe that only the writers of the Biblical books were so steered by God as to remove any of their humanity, likes, preferences biases (and that this kind of interaction ceased after the times of the Bible), or we have to account for the fact that very human people, (even those who earnestly believed they spoke one hundred percent of what God wanted and zero percent of what they wanted) may not have succeeded.

        It’s a question I’m asking us to wrestle with.

        • So many will not wrestle with the question, because their pastors have convinced them they are 1) not studied enough to question 2) not spiritual enough to question 3) it is infallible and not to be questioned and/or 4) too difficult.
          I left my fundamentalist “non-denominational” church because my pastor and his deacon came into my home admonishing me for the decisions I made regarding the way I chose tor raise my children. He did not like my choice of school nor my choice of friends who were also my babysitters because they were Seventh Day Adventists and he was convinced they were a cult because they adhere to the writings of a WOMAN (as well as having the audacity to question which day Jesus held as the Sabbath). My oldest daughter had written a letter to the editor as part of a school assignment in which she posited basic sex education should be taught in school (from the viewpoint of a high schooler and teen).
          He gave me the speech about how I as a woman had no spiritual discernment about such matters because my husband was not a believer and could not give me male guidance. Therefore, I as a woman, should follow the wisdom of my pastor to guide me in spiritual matters. (Mind you my IQ is 147). He , as a pastor, had studied these things in depth and had a superior knowledge . He spoke with God every day and knew in his heart God was leading him to admonish me. He also stripped me of my youth group leadership. I had been a youth leader an co-president of the Women’s Missionary Group and my family was in church every time the door was open.
          I enrolled my two younger children in the small (7 children) SDA school taught and principaled by my close SDA friend so they could have more attention and less distractions than in public school. What the pastor did not know and never asked about was the fact I made an agreement with my friend Ron that nothing religious would be taught to my children unless I saw the lesson ahead of time and approved of it.
          Needless to say I threw him and his deacon out of my house and I have not looked back. I am a seeker of knowledge and always delving deeply into history and varied religious beliefs because I feel no one has 100% truth. How can I dispute something I know nothing of? Therefore, I try to learn as much as I can for myself without listening to propaganda. It is why I stay away from organized religion, but do from time to time fellowship with the UU congregations.

    • In our church, we say that Jesus is the Word of God. The Gospel is also the Word of God, as the center or core of the church’s message about Jesus. It is the truth about him that saves. The Bible, in as much as it witnesses to him, and contains the Gospel, is the Word of God – but notice, that it is so in a derivative sense. Preaching, Paul says, is also the Word of God, inasmuch, again, as it reveals Christ and the Gospel to us. The same could be said for a person’s writing, or even our speaking to one another – if it reveals Christ and proclaims the Gospel, it is the “Word of God.”

  23. In studying Biblical Hebrew and Hebrew idioms and euphemisms, I can easily show any one who worships the King James Bible that it is not faithful to the Tanakh. It has been radically tampered with. So it is best to reserve judgment until you know what it really says.

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  26. Many of the Christians I worship with (and I include myself in this) DO admit these things about the Bible. We maintain that if you’re using your Bible to bash other people over the head with it, you’re using it for the wrong reason. I see it as God’s Big Fat Storybook About Love – how the Holy inter-acts with the Human.

    This was a wonderful blog. You bring up some very good points. Thank you for putting yourself out there.

  27. Seemingly Alone

    “…the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. No know, I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head…” – Primo Levi

    In November, 2014, I was diagnosed with severe aortic heart valve disease. Physicians told me I was now at risk for sudden death. In mid December 2014, I had the life saving procedure. The first several nights of my recovery I laid in my hospital bed and wept before falling off to sleep. That week my favorite quote (above) by Primo Levi had for me come alive.

    “I was in the most ancient of human conditions…..” I felt as if I might still die. However, I knew, the truth was I was alone with Him.

    In a physically, emotionally and weakened state I relied on the word the Lord had hidden in my heart over the last 25 years.

  28. I think you need to be careful that you do not undermine the very book..”bible” means book…that is our manual to life and death, and food for our spiritual man..for those who do not understand the difference between spirit and flesh this is clearly taught by Paul….it is essential to a biblical believer to know ‘who God is ‘, ‘who Jesus is’ and ‘who the Holy Spirit is’…you cannot find that in other books as explicitly written and taught in the bible…I see that you have done this to raise conversation …however please do not take away from the glourious testimonies of the disciples who witnessed the Majestic Glory 11 Peter.1-16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His Majesty. v 17 for He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic glory saying, “This is My Son, whom I love. With Him I AM well pleased. v 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. v 19 and we have the Word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. v 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prohets own interpretation v 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. …………This is profound God inspired wisdom written by Paul, whilst in prison , written for our sakes….amen..

  29. I’m a pathologist. I look at slides of people’s tissue and render a diagnosis. The slides show unequivocal truth about what’s growing in the person. But when I look at them I interpret them and render an opinion (diagnosis). I can sit in that chair looking at pure truth but to understand it I have to pass the data through my lens. This is what John is describing. Even if the bible holds 100% infallible truth encompassing all aspects of God and human life it gets bent through the lens of each person reading/experiencing it. It’s truth becomes relative to the user. I believe people often NEED the bible to be literal because they are enslaved by fear that prevents them from trusting God to move in them and direct their path.

  30. I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and accurate in it’s original text and the basic text has been miraculously preserved by the Holy Spirit for at least 2000 years! Yes, it is indeed a library not just one book and not dictated by God but definitely inspired by the Holy Spirit. But there are no significant errors and no more irregularities than you would commonly get between many different people giving an account of beliefs, situations or events. None of these change the message in any of the reasonably decent translations. It is by MY definition a VERY Good Book!

    • You might want to look at one of the Greek texts of the New Testament – perhaps Kittle, with the variant readings. Not to burst your bubble about scripture, but you have to then decide which is the “original” text. For instance, which ending in Mark would you include (there are three of them!)? And which translation would you choose, if any, as “authentic?” To say that it is not without error, or that we aren’t sure of some of it, is not to say that it isn’t true, or inspired. There are some significant differences as well in the telling of the story but, as you say, it does not detract from the whole. It is like several people who have witnessed an accident, and the police go to each, and each tells their story. The stories may vary in many ways, but the truth is in the midst of it. And, in this case, that truth inspires us to faith. Thank you for your comment!

  31. As I understand, have been taught and studied, the Old Testament is a book of faith. God chose the Israelites to be His Children, to fellowship with him, for them to show to the pagan world the greatness and wonder of the True and living God. His children strayed, time and time again. God Led, punished and loved his people, just as a parent today disciplines a child. The OT prophets spoke to the people the words God wanted them to hear. Not what the prophet decided to say. When God could do no more, he sent Himself, in the form of flesh and blood, yet Holy, in the person of Jesus. One must understand Hebrew law, sacrifice of the OT, to understand the meaning of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth. His death and resurrection. Yes. I believe in Jesus Christ who was crucified, died, buried and descended into hell and by the power of God, was raised from the dead. He was the unblemished lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of man. No other sacrifice is required. When God looks upon man’s sin, He looks thru His Son on the cross, and we are forgiven. Salvation won. Saved by Gods grace……undeserved love.

  32. So weary. Too much talk, not enough action. Pick, pick picking away at every bible verse, every phrase. A waste of valuable time, all that nit-picking. Get out there, wherever your “out” may be, be kind, bake somebody a cake, shovel snow off somebody’s porch, show somebody some love. You don’t get jewels in your crown by arguing about what it all means. Bored to tears, I am, with pulling that book apart and dissecting its every word. (I may be a cranky old woman, but I sure do know some good writing when I see it–thanks John.

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  34. I think there should be 1 more, god is not male, we may have turned god into a man so we can be ok with the impregnation of Mary to give birth to, Jesus, the son of god. But many times, I was taught, that god is neither and both sexes. To limit god to 1 particular gender is to do just that… Limit God… and there are NO limits. We like to use male pronouns and male gender titles to name God, but weren’t most of the old pronouns and gender titles used in the first writing of the Bible gender neutral or even feminine in their origins.

    That sounded like a lot of mumbo jumbo what I mean, I was taught by my male Minister that if you were to study to bible in the first language we can translate, god was described with adjectives some were male or female and gender neutral. And, God’s title was not LORD or FATHER … We, or rather the men who translated the bible decided to use gender titles or definitions that were only male.

    Just sayin that’s what I was taught by a very intelligent man.

  35. The Bible is still not available in many parts of the world but many people feel the movement of the spirit to worship a higher power of beauty and peace. I give that credit to mean that the book is not needed to know and to please God. Many never had the chance to read one nor understand the history of it. I know Jesus because I was raised in the faith. I believe that someone who has never heard of Jesus as we have by the book can know him through the spirit. He came to save the world, not just the Christians. The Bible has importance for me at times in my life and at other times it is the last thing I need. I find it long and dry. I know that it is often used as a form of power and control. It does not always speak to me. It does not always bring me comfort. It does not always lift me up. The Bible taught me about A God. My Dad taught me about God. My Father was my true inspiration in knowing God. A man who would befriend anyone. Smoking his cigarette while reading the Bible each day. A man with his flaws and gentle ways. I see the Bible as a book to provide a basic education of who God is. Just like an Ocean, I agree with you that he is too deep to really understand in completeness. I do not see the Bible as his literal word because too many men have dabbled with it and I too feel it was only inspired by the spirit. The common man never had a bible until Martin Luther made it possible. Most people could not read at the time. I do not believe that Bible verses really justify a belief to defend or use as a weapon against anyone. I see it more as a puzzle. People are told what to believe during their time, in their country, culture, town, family setting and that was not inspired by God. I see a mean God in the Old Testament and a loving God in the new. For a God who claims to be perfect, I see a lot of conflict in him. I see a God who is too complicated for us to really ever know what he really wants from us except to be loved and love others. To be loved with out any proof of meeting. How many people do we love that we have never met? We are his creation made for his pleasure and he has been unhappy with us in the past according to the Word. A God who makes no mistakes but made the human race. A God who knows all in the end. A God because of the book, many people sadly believe that they will burn in Hell if they are not obedient. And those like me who are willing to take the chance because I believe in a God that is forgiving. I disagree with many parts of the bibles translation. It is my right to disagree with translators. I have a right to disagree with someone who tells me God said so. It is the allowance that God gave me because he is asking me to follow him somewhat blindly. He whispers it in my ear and into the depth of my soul that I am on the right path with many intersections, twists and turns. It is my right to anger him and be forgiven just as a child angers his parent. It is my right to question him. It is my right as his creation to live out my life as he created me. A healthy child does not grow up in fear of his father and I do not intend to grow up in fear of my God. I worship him in the way that he has enlighten me. It is not my concern nor is it someones job to save me. God has it handled. My soul is his. My belief is no longer because the Bible told me so. My belief is because he is ever present in my daily thoughts. No one else on earth has that power over me. God has in fact calmed my soul. God is more than a book with only “one way.” God is real in my life and I think many people come to terms with this later in life as wisdom starts to build in ones soul. This is my perspective on the Bible.

    • Very well expressed! You have expressed many of the same thoughts I have had for a long while. 🙂 One’s walk with God is a personal one and not one to be demanded or judged by others.

  36. Whenever you go this historical route, any material will be for the past, not for us. In other words, the material was for a particular audience at a particular time, the OT is already thought of in this way, even though rationally, it is the necessary text before the incarnation. No material in a culturally/historically context is available to us, we can never experience their experience (one may want to read Lessing on history). Cultures continually move through various forms, as do languages; therefore, the mind too. One would have to assume that the people then were like us; same values, views of reality and such, which is shallow thinking at best. Language issues are the same. Old greek formed up under Platonic Ideals is different from the modern separation of thought and being, no language is exactly translatable and language, which is expressed thought, is the thinking taking place then as opposed to our thinking. Who has access to any of this? No one even knows how ancient Greek even sounded. All historical, cultural, language studies are contingent, and changes in this material will effect and affect our understandings with these contingent methods, one already sees an unstable christianity forming from these unstable elements. In all of the focus on the bible from methods developed from this stuff, one could say that there basically is nothing in the bible for us (maybe some quaint adages, proverbs, Confucius like material), especially after gathering a diverse number of opinions that will cancel out everything except current changing popular ideas, that will be the result eventually and one can see this happening. Paul took stuff from many years before him and used it (say Romans 9), and all of the NT writers did, even for them material from different historical, language, and culture contexts, and it seems over this vast time span, history and culture, even language, was not a big issue in their use of the material; history, language, and culture are over rated and are of use for raising opinion to relevancy. What to do with a book like Job, there was no history, culture, nor known language in Eden, what to do there, who was the audiences? When and where was this stuff even written? All these contingencies are just that, contingencies. To get away from these contingencies, the question to be asked of this material is, “is the truth in it and what is it?” The nature of truth in your article is left out. Truth is the unchanging, or the necessary, as necessary it does not need time and space, and it is self generating, this truth comes into time and space through the mind and is expressed in human words, once in time and space it has the same problem as everything else in time and space, such as paradoxes and the like, but these are not the big problems they are made out to be. Words are very important, and the connection of both wisdom and words (logos) are connected to the Word. It is truth that needs to be found here, not contingency. If christians are not careful here, they will be claiming that men/women generate the truth, and all the truth that they generate is culturally, historically, and language bound, or contingent, i. e., not the truth. The bible is in the form of the Trinity; OT as God as mystery, Christ time or the revelation of the mystery, and the NT as the Holy Spirit, this gives the bible something more than history, culture, and language studies and transcends all of this. To make God beyond understanding is to deny the incarnation and revert back to the ancient idea that god is hidden, even Plato rejected this.

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  39. The Holy Bible is my personal study guide to read and use to learn about my God and Savior. When I am in need of guidance for my life I refer to it for my personal needs.
    It concerns me that the author of this article speaks of Christians as though he were not one of us. It comes off as personal criticism of Christians who study the Bible and regard it as messages from God Himself.

  40. The important thing too, is that we are to be guided by the Holy Spirit, which was often the case in the New Testament (after Christ’s ascension). That’s why the Holy Spirit is referred to as “the great helper”; a perfect companion for each individual, in an individual way, and which is also why God gave us discernment. The Bible can have different meanings at different times for each individual. That’s the amazing thing about The Bible to me, particularly into the New Testament (and including the direct teachings of Jesus)… That’s why, at the end of the day, each Christian’s relationship w/God is just that, personal as it was designed to be, not religious dictations and doctrines..

  41. I had a priest many years ago who said,” The Bible is full of truth, but remarkably short on facts.”
    I always liked that thought, that it doesn’t have to be factual to resonate a powerful truth.

  42. THANK YOU! The Bible is a library — a God-inspired library. And I have read many, many other books by God-inspired authors who also have enlarged my perception and view of God.

  43. The only thing you missed is that “God” is just a fabricated means of explaining existence and isn’t real in any sense other than “yes, we came from something”, but that something is explained by science and the instinct to perpetuate our species, not a genie in the sky. The Bible, just like any other historical fiction, can direct your life, but it isn’t a roadmap and it isn’t inspired by anything other than men’s imagination. If you want to believe in “god”, go for it! But don’t think this collection of stories (The Christian Bible) has any more relevance to your life than On the Origin of the Species.

  44. If you dismiss the Bible as a reliable historic and spiritual record, you’re also dismissing Jesus Christ as a spiritual leader over your life. The Bible is the only book that describes Him in the kind of way that would require a decision on your part to set Him apart as Lord or not, and contrary to what John says above, much of the Bible IS actually very clear. Satan’s most basic line was: did God really say? Whenever you hear someone muddy the Biblical waters, your listening to Satan.

    If you’re believing in a different Jesus to the literal one of the Bible, you’re fabricating. No Bible, no Jesus. No Jesus, no Christianity. No hell, no death on the cross. No death on the cross, no Bible. They all tie in extremely closely together, and if you reject part of the package, you reject the entire package.

    Jesus is not all-inclusive. You follow His way only, or you go to hell, in His own words.

    Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
    “3 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

    John’s position on LGBTI means he’s rejected the Biblical Jesus. I can’t see you how you can be a Christian on that account, by definition. Jesus did not condone other lifestyles – in fact, he raised the bar on sexuality. He judged sexual sin, and He was in line with the whole Bible on that issue. He said to the adulteress: go and sin no more.

  45. Thanks for these very good points. I find the problem with most people using the bible is they lack a theological method. Do you have any suggestions for a method that might lead people to discover biblical truth while allowing for these more nuanced elements of scripture?

  46. I am so encouraged that a minister would say this. I heard a Jewish comedian recently who asked Christians to leave his book The Old Testament alone and follow their book the New Testament. I so agree. He said he was tired of people taking the Old Testament more literally than the Jewish people for whom the book was meant.

  47. Amen! I find John’s words here to be Spirit-inspired. Beware of idolatry! There is a hierachy that I try to adhere to… and pray for us all: worship God, follow Christ and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

  48. I was just thinking about this today as I gazed at the hot springs around a lake in New Zealand and the big hole in the mountain that erupted around them. I thought, What does this tell me about who God is? So creative, detailed, beautiful, and violent. So many colors were involved as minerals in the ground rose to the surface and iodized. And I thought about the Perry arguments that are destroying His church today, and asked myself how the Godcwho created the plant and geological diversity I was experiencing could possibly get tangled in our modern nonsense. While I do believe in a personal God who saved me from my sin through Jesus’ death on the cross, I did find myself wondering how much of what we have done to label sin is just human diversity of sorts.

  49. John – you and I probably disagree on much of our respective biblical views, particularly your more recent positions following the last election cycle where (from my personal perspective only) you seemed to step away from the authentic message of Jesus and into the world of secular activism using the currently en vogue canard that Jesus today would have a vastly different interpretive message than Jesus of 2000 years ago. I get populism, even amongst Christian voices trying to reach into a sector which has by and large fallen away from us, so no harm, no foul. We simply disagree.

    That said … this post from your blog (apparently a couple of years old based on the comments) is spot on. Very well said.

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