Category Archives: Wrestling with the Bible

Should the Bible be burned or revered? Is it an archaic book in need of burial or is it God’s life giving words relevant for the human today? It’s a wrestling match!

What’s the Point? 


Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.  You are all I really want in life. (Psalm 142:5)

What is the goal for the follower of Jesus? Are we looking for happiness, wealth, a home in heaven, eternal riches, a good reputation, a mansion, a good life now, what?

 David tells us we follow Jesus because we long to be with God. It’s fundamentally a relationship that we are seeking with the creator of the universe. All we want is to know that we love and are loved by God. From this relationship springs true life, true love, true joy. Oneness with the creator makes life as it should be. We long for God, to be tucked in safely beside him forever. God is not the means to a selfish end he is the end himself.

Listen to Correction 

Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.  (Psalm 141:5)

In the previous verse we learn that the natural tendency for all humans is to “drift towards evil” like a log drifting towards Niagara Falls. David tells us that as humans we find ourselves prefering the “delicacies of sin”. We devour the chocolate cake before us, refusing to consider that it is laced with poison. This is why David is rejoicing when other godly men and women have the courage to smack him in the mouth and say “don’t eat that cake!” Christianity was never meant to be private or solitary. We are a community of faith that supports each other in our efforts to live lives pleasing to God. Instead of being filled with resentment when concerned family members within the community call us to repentance we should celebrate. It is only pride that keeps us from listening to the corrections of another and that’s the worst poison of all!

Out of a Far Country

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This book combines two stories into one.

Chris (the son) — He is gay, that’s not cool by his Asian American parents. There is a nasty blow up. He moves out, gets into the gay club party scene, discovers drugs, excels at selling them. Life is perfect for him, money, power, drugs, gay sex and complete acceptance. All of that ends, with an arrest, incarceration and an HIV diagnosis. In prison he finds a Bible in a trash can, reads it, and accepts Jesus as his saviour.  He also finds a man to help him grow in his new found faith. The man tells Chris to become a minister when he gets out of prison. At first this idea sounds preposterous, but Chris’ prison ministry grows and he wonders if maybe…but what about the whole gay thing? The chaplain at the prison says “not a problem” and gives Chris a book teaching that Christianity was for gay love and not against it. However, the more Chris studied his Bible the more he discovered the opposite to be true. The chaplains book ended up in the trash can.

Chris did get out of prison and he did become an internationally respected conference speaker, and theology professor at a Christian university. In fact, I purchased his book at a conference he recently spoke at. From all points he seems to be doing well. He is reconciled to his family, he has joy and a transcendent purpose now. But what about his same sex attraction? Christopher will tell you that he remains gay, however, he has become content to resist those attractions and remain celibate. He believes that celibacy is a legitimate option for human beings and that he as a person is in no way incomplete, unfulfilled or somehow deficient just because he is not sexually active. His allegiance to Jesus and God’s Word have led him to deny himself in this area. Self denial, of course, is a major tenet of Christianity so he doesn’t feel as though he is different than any other Christian.  Chris thinks it’s unhelpful and unhealthy for humans to be identified primarily by their sexual orientation. Chris does not want his identity to be “homosexual” or “heterosexual” His identity is that he is a child of God. He is also emphatic that singleness is not a curse or a burden. There is only one thing Chris can’t live without, that is God. Everything else can go. For so many years, Chris was a prisoner to his need for popularity, dance music, sex and drugs. Liberation came when he tore those idols down and began to follow the God who is love. Ironically, true freedom came for Chris while he was in prison.

Angela (the mom) — She is Chinese, locked into an honour/shame culture. The ultimate shame was Chris’ coming out. That despair combined with a lifeless marriage brought Angela to the brink of suicide, but she did not go through with it. Instead, by means of a series of incredible providences she discovered Jesus. Her life changed. Now, because of Jesus she could forgive her husband, because of Jesus she could love her son regardless of his attractions or his actions. Before Jesus, Angela manipulated her husband and children through guilt, shame and “drama” now as she oriented her life around Jesus, she began to practice sacrificial love instead. Her husband was compelled by the change and became a Christian as well. With healing on the home front, Angela set to work in prayer and love for her son whose life was clearly spiralling out of control. Chris was very hard on his parents when he was doing and dealing drugs, but Angela relentlessly stuck to her plan of love and prayer. Eventually Chris came to the same faith that had changed her life so much. Now she serves as his travel and ministry partner.

What did I learn? 

  1. I think Chris is right on when he questions our cultures assumption that a healthy and fulfilled life must have sex in it.
  2. A lot about the gay clubbing/party lifestyle, drugs, and prison life. Probably more than I wanted to know.
  3. The power of a faithful passionate prayer life. Angela’s story helps us see that prayer is not a pointless exercise rather it’s a vital means through which God draws people to himself.
  4. Singleness is not a curse, it’s a gift.
  5. Even though, Chris enjoyed the power, popularity, and exhilaration of his pre-Christian lifestyle, it all came at an increasingly terrible cost. Life was solely focused on himself, his needs, his wants, his attractions. This self focus made it impossible for any real relationships to last. This natural turn inward that we all have actually shrivels up our lives. In the end Chris turned his allegiance from himself to Jesus. This shift in devotion liberated Chris to serve Jesus by loving and serving others above himself. The result for Chris has been the exponential growth of joy, peace, and purpose in his life, the abundance of which far exceeds any benefits his previous life afforded him.

The Subtle Sin of Selfish Ambition

selfish

If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. (James 3:14-17)

It sneaks in quietly through an unlocked back door. A tiny little thought, a tinge of resentment and a pinch of disgust.

He seems to be more successful than I. He is better than me at something, people are noticing him and not me.  I don’t like him for this fact.

I need to be number one. I need to be the one that people talk about. I need to be the one that people are the most impressed with. I need to restore my preeminence, but I need to do it in subtle ways or I might be unmasked and shamed.

What’s my plan? At first nearly imperceptible boasts about myself followed by subtle, soft & gentle lies about my competitor. I mask my demonic plans with humour and sarcasm. “Just kidding” is a favourite camouflage of mine.  Slowly I build myself up and tear him down. I am the champion again.

This is the devil’s wisdom that destroys our world. God’s wisdom pursues peace and rejoices in the successes of others with a pure heart.

God give me that pure heart.

Laziness is not an insignificant flaw

Cant-Some-one-Else-Just-Do-It
He hasn’t disciplined them I Samuel 3:13
I suspect that Eli’s problem was laziness. All through this narrative we are told of his problem with obesity. In this spot in the story it says that he failed to discipline his children. He couldn’t be bothered to shape their character, that would require too much effort, anyway “boys will be boys” right? Eli’s bulk made him a slow moving vehicle, unable and perhaps unwilling to lead his children. He let them go their own way. “They will figure it out” he thought to himself, as he remained seated, stuck to his chair, munching on yet another lamb chop.
Laziness is the passive form of selfishness. Those who possess it in large quantities will not be a part of God’s kingdom no matter how religious they are, or how nice they are. To be a dad and to be lazy or disinterested about that responsibility is truly one of the great tragedies of humanity.
In 20 years of pastoral work, I see this problem to be among the most damaging for human flourishing. God help me to not shirk my responsibility to be a loving, involved dad, who is absolutely committed to the hard but wonderful work of shaping my children’s character.
Amen.

Life is hard. Is trusting yourself really the best option?

The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up. The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up. (I Samuel 2:6-7)

This is life. Complete with success and failure, triumph and defeat, good and bad, struggle and ease, life and death. For the Christian the overriding thought is that God is behind it all. God is to be praised when we succeed and God is to be trusted when we fail.

Dispense with the idea of God and what do you have? The very same problems and struggles only now you have no one to praise but yourself (and perhaps others who helped make you into what you are, if you are inclined to share credit). And you have no one to trust but yourself.

Which is the better plan? Neither eliminates suffering. However the benefit of the first plan over the second to me is obvious. The second has a greater likelihood of leading people down a path of pride, arrogance & self-righteousness. If my success is solely because of me and your failure is solely because of you. What’s to stop me from thinking I’m better than you? Nothing! So goes the world without God. We need God to help us deflect glory so we don’t swell. We need God to help us rise above absolute despair when the bottom falls out of our lives.

“Lord I need you, how I need you, every hour I need you,  you’re my one defence my righteousness, oh God how I need you”

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit –Relationship Roles and Relevance

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Bruce Ware is good for laying down the historical back story for how the Christian church came to affirm the Trinitarian position. Certainly it was a struggle, but it was always a struggle to make sense of what the Scriptures actually said. Faithfulness to the written text was the motivation for the doctrine even if the conclusions went beyond the capacity for full human understanding.

What the Scripture presents is monotheism, but yet at the same time,  3 unique persons emerge from the Bible all having the attributes of deity and the affirmation of deity from the biblical authors. If all three persons are equally God, then whats the difference between them?

The answer to that question is essentially what Bruce Ware’s book is all about.

For Ware the difference comes down to roles. God the Father’s role is that of supreme leader (not to be confused with the title currently given to North Korea’s dictator) He is the highest authority, the one deserving of ultimate praise, the grand architect of all things. Both Jesus and the Spirit acknowledge the Fathers authority even though they are equal in value to him.

God the Son’s role is that of submission. Jesus always yields to the will of the Father. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is inferior to God, only that to obey is divine. It’s not a bad thing to submit is Ware’s oft given refrain during this chapter. He has a reason for driving this point home.

God the Spirit’s role is that of assistant. Ware refers to the H.S.’s job as “the background role” of the Trinity. But certainly it is not unimportant, the Spirit’s work both points people to Jesus and also empowers those who follow Jesus.

The “so what” part of the book is the last chapter. What I liked about his conclusion is his presentation of the Trinitarian God as highly relational, interconnected and interdependent. For Ware this vision of God is also a vision of what we should be like. He takes a well timed swipe at the rugged independence of the western world, and urges us away from the “I did it my way” Long Ranger approach to life that America is famous for.

What I’m definitely iffy on is his efforts to put the members of the Trinity in their proper places. Order is all that seems to matter to Bruce Ware. Yes, they are all equal, But God is first place, Jesus is second place and the H.S. is third place. I don’t believe the Bible makes as many pains to bear this out as Bruce Ware thinks it does. But he has good reasons for pressing into Trinitarian order.

Which leads me to the second thing that I just can’t swallow. Ware seizes upon I Cor 11:3 —  But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God and then launches himself into the conversation about the role of men and women. Just like Jesus submits his will to God so to must the woman submit her will to the will of man. But that’s just the starting point, the conversation quickly moves to a Church polity discussion and I discover that because Jesus submits to the will of the Father, women should not be aloud to speak in church! Wait, what? But don’t worry women because men and women are positionally equal, just like Jesus and God are. It’s just that it’s your job to submit which means you need to keep your mouth closed in church. Yeah, it’s just too much for me. I don’t believe the wonder of the Trinity should be used as a maneuvering point to “keep women in their proper place.” I think a Trinitarian conversation could go in so many better directions, which is why I like Michael Reeves book Delighting in the Trinity a 100x more than Bruce Ware’s book

5 Views on Biblical Inerrancy

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Has God spoken? Have those words been written down and preserved for us in the Bible? Are those words perfectly good and true? Is the Bible absolutely trustworthy, mostly trustworthy, somewhat trustworthy? Right on some things but wrong on others?  All of these questions coalesce into a debate among conservative Christians . “Inerrancy”  is the term that capsulizes this conversation. This book pits 5 Christian men with varying views on inerrancy against each other. Each gets a shot at explaining how they understand inerrancy and each has to look at three passages of Scripture which seemingly purport a mistake and offer their two cents on how that Bible might still be true or not in light of these alleged  errors.

This was both fascinating and spicy! Clearly, this is not a topic of casual debate. For the Christian understanding the Bible is a big big deal.

1 ) Al Mohler — The Bible must be factually accurate in every detail otherwise it cannot be trusted. In short Mohler believes that “When the Bible Speaks, God Speaks” The Bible alone and the Bible in it’s entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.

The church must have a total commitment to the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Bible, or else the church is left without a defining authority.  Inerrancy is an all or nothing kind of thing. Scripture is the support beam on which Christianity is built. Christians need a trustworthy guide. If the Bible is not completely true and trustworthy then the support beam for our faith, is destroyed, and the whole thing comes tumbling down.

Mohler rejects attempts to say that Biblical authority does not require inerrancy. In no meaningful way can the Bible be authoritative in a persons life while at the same time have some errors in it. “Biblical authority is inescapably impaired if total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded.”

With an alarmist tone Mohler laments that if the Bible is not fully authoritative, fully trustworthy, then we don’t even know what Christianity is.

Mohler reasons that he is on solid ground with his position because

  • The Bible teaches total inerrancy
  • The tradition of the church teaches it
  • The function or purpose of the Bible demands it.

But ultimately Mohler appeals to his pre-supposition first of all

“I do not allow any line of evidence from outside the Bible to nullify to the slightest degree the truthfulness of any text in all that the text asserts and proclaims. That statement may appear radical to some readers, but it is the only position that is fully compatible with the claim that every word of scripture is fully inspired and thus fully true and trustworthy” 

Bottom line, since God is true his word must be true. Certainly translations can go off the rails but that’s a different matter. Given this disclosure, we already know Mohler will not struggle to much with the alleged discrepancies.

  • Did the walls fall? (Joshua 6) — archeology says there was no walls in Jericho at the time Israels alleged invasion, therefore Joshua 6 is not true in a factual sense. Mohler simply throws shade on the archeological “evidence”, and finds an archaeologist who agrees with what the text says.
  • Did Paul’s companions see or hear? (Acts 9:7) — The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one (Acts 22:9)  — Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. So did the men hear but not see, or did the see but not hear? Can’t be both so the argument goes. Mohler see’s no conflict, his presupposition won’t allow him to, but there is also a convenient explanation, in both cases, the men heard something and they also saw something, but there were unable to grasp what they were hearing and seeing.
  • Is God inconsistent with himself? Duet 20:16 — Kill your enemies Matt 5:43-48 —  Love your enemies — the Bible is contradictory. Mohler says it’s impossible to understand why it had to be this way, but to get to the cross the Bible has us going through Cannan. It’s all one grand, mysterious, and wonderful story. Judgment in Canaan and also in eternity is part of that story.

Criticisms of Mohler

  • There is certainly criticism of Mohlers a-priori convictions. You can’t even have a discussion about errors in the Bible, because going into the conversation Mohler has already decided there aren’t any. You could slap him in the face with an error and he won’t accept it.
  • Mohler’s approach is not helpful because “It is reductionistic and adversarial. It produces not a faith seeking understanding but a rational seeking certainty.”
  • He is too much against extra Biblical lines of evidence. It’s ok for someone to modify their interpretations of Biblical texts and make better sense out of them based on facts that come in. Interpretations change and the text can still be trustworthy.
  • There is criticism of Mohler’s appeal to the church fathers, yes, they made great claims to the inerrancy of Scripture but that was because of their commitment to spiritual and allegorical interpretation. The Bible was declared true because the hermeneutics were so flexible in their day. Augustine wasn’t interested in becoming a Christian until he discovered allegorical interpretation!  The concern is that Mohler is forcing a more modernistic fact based interpretation into inerrancy. Literary devices such as myth and saga need to be considered — they were part of the landscape of the ancient world

Peter Enns

Like it or not, the Bible is empirically false at times, and must not be regarded as inerrant. The Bible tells of God’s acts but also reports some events that either may not have happened or have been significantly reshaped and transformed by centuries of tradition. Inerrancy as it has been accepted by many evangelicals like Mohler actually proves to be unhelpful because it puts expectations on the Bible that it was not meant to bear. The Bible was never meant to be read with our modern interest in accuracy and scientific precision. Strict pre-suppositional convictions on inerrancy short circuit helpful criticism, inquiry, and healthy intellectual pursuit. It’s all about the manner in which God speaks truth, namely, through the idioms, attitudes, assumptions, and general world views of the ancient authors. — some of which we now know are not technically true in a strictly modern sense. Inerrancy is an intellectual disaster for evangelicalism, and it’s gotta go!

  • What about Jericho? — Didn’t happen like Joshua 6 says it does. The archaeologists are correct. This then must be an example of “Mythologized History” There is a kernel of true history to the story, but it has been retold and expanded for reasons we don’t fully know or appreciate. According to Enns the entire Exodus narrative is a myth. A small band of Jewish slaves escaped Egypt, snuck out through a dried lake bed, and created an insignificant colony in Canaan.
  • What about Pauls friends — It doesn’t matter whether one account said they saw something and the other account said the heard something. We need to embrace the creative nature of ancient portrayals of the past. We cannot force the text into being burdened by modern precisionist notions of truth.
  • What about the extermination of Canaanites? — That didn’t really happen either at least not to the same extent the narratives seem to indicate. These narratives were not reported events, they were tribal rhetoric. When you discard the violent narrative’s as tribal trash talk, it’s not so bad. But that’s not the main point. The point is what Jesus says and what the O.T. says cannot be neatly lined up together. Jesus is reversing the O.T. way. We don’t vainly try to justify or explain away the genocide like inerrantists are forced to do. Stuff happened in the O.T. that was tribal and brutal. It is what it is, God’s name got thrown around, now because of Jesus all that is different.

Criticism of Peter Enns

  • If inerrancy falls so falls evangelicalism. It’s difficult to see the difference between Peter Enns and a liberal protestant. It’s what he sounds like. Liberal protestantism is in ruins because they emasculated the authority of Scripture. It hard not to imagine that the same problems will occur if one follows Enns.
  • If one can effortlessly turn most of the O.T. into a myth, what would hinder one from doing the same to the N.T.?  The answer is nothing.
  • Enn’s appears to be a Marcionite — The God of the O.T. is an inferior war like tribal God that has been replaced with the loving God of the N.T. — That heresy was expunged from the church millennia ago. It’s really hard not to draw this conclusion given what he said.
  • He caricature’s inerrancy as some sort of brain dead position, and then attacks it viscously. Critical inerrancy looks very seriously at literary form, grammar, and cultural context , but he seems to think it doesn’t.
  • His “mic drop” ending. See it’s all a mess, quite trying to cover up the errors!  What then is God’s Word? What Qualities must it have? Can the Bible be authoritative? To these questions he gives no answers.

Michael F. Bird

He doesn’t feel comfortable with the standard comment “the Bible is inerrant in it’s original autographs.” What does original autographs even mean? Several portions of both the New and Old testament had later add ons, the original Jeremiah was destroyed and then re-written. The N.T. authors were clearly more interested in the meanings of the O.T. and not it’s actual wording, because they regularly take great liberties when quoting the O.T. certainly they weren’t concerned about “the originals”. This feels to Bird like a convenient way to explain away lots of the potential problems with the Bible. “Well yes, there is that problem, but we believe it wasn’t in the originals, so we are ok”

For Bird Inspiration is a better term. Inspiration extends “to the human literary processes which preserved the meaning and power of God’s Word to achieve the ends for which it was given.”  

Bird see’s inerrancy debate as a largely American phenomenon which is used primarily as a weapon for religious politics. So what does Bird believe about the Bible?

Bible is an authentic and authoritative account of God’s actions in creation, redemption, and consumption…God does not feed us nuts of truth inside of shells of falsehood…There are bits of Scripture, inconsequential for the most part, that do not agree (with the truth) in their precise details.”

These minor inconsistencies, do not derail Birds confidence in Scripture. Nor does he feel that we should always try to defend and explain these bits of Scripture. “We should not anchor the truth of Scripture in our apologetic capabilities to beat the skeptics at their own game; I think there are better ways.” 

Bird things the Bible speaks authoritatively for salvation, but not necessarily on matter of history and science. The Bible should be the ultimate standard for faith and practice, but it should stop there.

He lands his plane by rejecting inerrancy and embracing infallibility as the better term. Infallibility to Bird is the confidence that “The Bible does not fail to achieve the purpose for which God has given it, whether that purpose is asserting, promising, commanding, exhorting, praising etc.”

Jericho? — Main point of story is God fulfilling his promise to bring his people into the promised land, that happened. He is not nearly as confident as Enns in the “clear evidence” of archaeology. But he is ok if the narrative doesn’t correspond exactly to reality in certain mostly minor points.

Pauls Buddies — Ancient historians were story tellers not modern journalists. Lukes narration can be flexible on the details because that is what the genre in which he was writing allowed.

Genocide — God’s a pragmatist, it wasn’t ideal but the Canaanites had to go, and the children of God were the people for the job. This is the unfortunate but necessary provisional step on the road to Shalom in God’s master plan. You can be committed to the Bible with out having to reconcile this O.T. instance of  killing your neighbours and Jesus’ admonition to love them but in order to do that you have to recognize “the contingency of divine command in less-than-ideal situations, and an acknowledgement that some commands are more indicative of God’s original and eschatological intentions than others…We don’t fully understand but we trust.” 

Criticism 

  • Bird assumes that to hold to inherency means you accept strictly literalist interpretations. Which is not true.
  • I don’t know how helpful it is to just walk off from the genocide passage by saying it’s imponderable but I trust God. — Maybe that’s all that can be done?

Kevin Vanhoozer 

Vanhoozer defines inerrancy in the following way: “to confess faith that the authors speak the truth in all things they affirm when they make affirmations, and will eventually be seen to have spoken truly when right readers read rightly.”

Two things stand out about his definition.

  1. Vanhoozer is quit willing to give the biblical authors the benefit of the doubt. He embraces the Augustinian idea of “Faith seeking understanding.” and thus is confident that the authors words will eventually be proven true.
  2. The second part of his definition “when right readers read rightly” is meant to draw attention for the need to understand how truth is revealed in many ways through cultural context, genre, and authorial intent. Truth is about reality, but there is more than one way to render reality in language. Like the difference between maps, one highlight’s roads, another topography, another buried treasure, they need not contradict each other they have different purposes. a poem harbours truth in a different way than does a physics manual right readers reading rightly will know this. for example was Jesus affirming botanic truth when he called the mustard seed the smallest of all the seeds or was he drawing an analogy that his hearers would have understood in order to communicate a non botanical truth? For Vanhoozer this is not difficult, the reader was never intended to look for technical botanical accuracy.

Vanhoozer believes the Bible has difficulties but stops short of referring to them as errors. He also recognizes the pastoral importance for Christians to have an authority that is ultimately united and coherent.

The walls of Jericho — Archaeological evidence is inconclusive, however in many cases, narrative is “true history artfully presented.” Ancient narratives do not give us a completed and unbiased account of events. It’s an angle on truth. But that doesn’t mean its in error.

Damascus Road — Don’t ask what words Luke used, ask what he is doing with those words. This is a progressive reduction of the role of his companions. Paul alone is a witness to Christ’s visit upon him. Literary repetition with a difference is Lukes way of showing that Paul’s commissioning by Jesus was intended for Paul alone. That’s the point.

Racial violence vs. Radical Love — Jesus understood the O.T. as a grand story with an overarching plot — Salvation history. “At points along the story we have holy love meeting with unholy rejection. we have the Creator redeemer engaging with the forces of Chaos. Jesus could say “love your enemies” without condemning the O.T. because the conquest of Canaan was a unique and limited event — a single scene, now past — in the drama of redemption.”  This event was never intended to be a model for how all future generations were to behave towards their contemporary enemies. This event has to be interpreted in the shadow of the cross.

Criticism 

  • It’s not fair play to simply say this difficultly is not an error because it has some greater theological purpose.
  • This is the standard “be patient” and “it’s not impossible” apologetics which Enns has no interest in.
  • Vanhoozer tries to systematize all of the difficulties away.

John Franke

“While the diverse parts of the biblical canon do not contradict or negate each other, neither do they cohere. — When we attempt to ease the difficulties of the multiple perspectives in Scripture to make matters more compact, clear, and manageable, we suffer the loss of plurality and diversity that is woven into the very fabric of Scripture and by extension, the divine design of God” 

John is all about plurality when it comes to truth. He wants us to see the Scriptures as the Word of God in human words, and that as such its stories and teachings taken as a whole, are true and not a lie. However, he strongly rejects inerrancy. For him the principle of divine accommodation is really important. Human language is incapable of providing descriptions of God that are fully faithful to the reality of God as God. What that means is Scripture is not so much the actual words of God as it is a map that effectively guides our journey into the mission of God. The Bible points us in the right direction without the necessity of being photographically precise or drawn exactly to scale.

Another way he explains it, is as follows: Capital T truth is how God sees things, small t truth is how we see it. Witnesses to Capital T truth are contained in the human speech-acts of Scripture but these witnesses are situated and fragmentary and are therefore small t truth.

He is against the idea of forcing Scripture into conformity with others Scripture for the sake of systematic unity. Scripture doesn’t have to agree with itself, there is a plurality of truth found in the Bible is his big idea.

Instead of viewing Scripture as a true foundation it should be a web of interconnected beliefs that are a witness to capital T truth. With the web model, new evidence, fresh interpretation, and alternative viewpoints are continually assessed and incorporated as needed into the existing network of beliefs. All beliefs are subject to critical scrutiny and reconstructed, replaced, or relinquished if necessary.

Truth is not relative Franke says, but it’s a whole lot more flexible than inerrantists think.

Jericho — Doesn’t’ matter because the purpose of the text is to form a covenantal community. It’s not about details at all.

Road to Damascus —  Precisionist approach is terrible. perhaps Sauls companions did not hear with comprehension in the one case. The second telling is from Paul perspective the first from Luke’s. Perhaps Paul’s companions had a different experience. There is no need to harmonize these accounts in anyway.

Genocide vs Love — Both legit perspectives — Franke believes in just war theory for example, and yet still believes in the love of Jesus. Two truths in play. The Bible is a web of varied truths.

Criticism 

  • He shrugs off difficulties in the Bible by saying that there is a plurality of truth, and that’s it. Difficulties aren’t difficult anymore. He is careful to say he is not a relativist. However I’m not sure how he is anything but that.
  • He doesn’t really say what he believes in other than it all fits together, and errors, or conflicting truths don’t really matter because the Bible is a web that we can sort of pick and choose out of.
  • God’s truth as he knows it and God’s truth as he reveals it are two different things, I’m not sure that’s a great idea. Certainly not if we want to have any confidence that we can know what God has spoken to us.
  • There is no real application to his approach.

I’m sympathetic to Mohler because those are my roots. As a Christian who doesn’t want a Bible that is completely free of errors and 100% accurate on everything it talks about. However his unyielding faith in the inherency presupposition made me a bit uneasy. It was kind of like “Don’t confuse me with any facts my minds made up”.

I’m not so much persuaded by Enns. He feels more like a wrecking ball to me. That and a heretic. I’m sure he’s not, right? It just felt to me like he was a Marcianite. Plus his explanations don’t actually help explain the challenging passages in the long run.

Bird is shooting for the term “infallible”. The Bible will not fail to achieve it’s purposes, it is fully reliable for matters of faith and practice, and if it’s a little off here or there on minor points, no big deal. It’s not intended to be a science book, or a technically precise modern history book.

Vanhoozer acknowledges his presupposition that the Bible is true, but it doesn’t feel the same as Mohler’s alarmists cries. I liked his persistent reminders for us to understand how important it is to read Scripture rightly. In many way’s I felt like he was a more scholarly version of Bird.

Franke lost me in a postmodern cloud. I get the part about the plurality of truth, I think. But what is he saying then? Is the Bible really a loosely-connected web of incoherent truths that are all true in their own special way? Truth ever shifting ever changing? Truth with a capital T only known by God, and small t truth for the rest of us —  I’m a bit confused.

I like Bird and Vanhoozer the most. No one had a good explanation for the genocide passages. I’m not sure there is one.

Believe or Die!

So Josiah removed all detestable idols from the entire land of Israel and required everyone to worship the Lord their God (2 Chron 34:33)

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Once again we see that there’s no real choice in the matter, you have to worship the true God or else. Involuntary religion is the name of the game throughout the entire Old Testament. Often we see examples where worshipping the “wrong God” is a capital offence!

We see this all through Christian history as well. For example, In GJ Meyers book on WW1 I learned that Prussia was originally inhabited by Slavic people. German Christians moved in and with the help of the Teutonic Knights, they crushed the Slavic people militarily. They allowed the survivors to stay on the condition that they would convert to Christianity. Many did and it was from this combination of Slavic and German people that the German Empire of the 1800 and 1900s came to be.

Religious freedom is definitely a new development for the human race. Sometimes Christians can look at the inflexibility of Islam and frown. Certainly it’s lack of religious tolerance today, is a major problem, however Christians need to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that they too were we’re forcing people on point of death to accept Christianity.

My question is how does one appreciate the religious intolerance of the Old Testament? Or what can be learned devotionally from reading it? Certainly we don’t want to follow the Old Testament example here and regress into a form of Christianity that forces itself upon others with dire consequences for those that do not comply. So what then?

The New Testament was written when Christianity was a fugitive religion without any power. Is it because of this fact that it’s message for nonbelievers is completely different than the Old Testament? I hope not. In any case the mandate for Christians coming from the New Testament is crystal clear: we are to love our enemies not kill them or force them out. Ok, got it. So we know that the many examples of Christian brutality in human history are definitely outside the margins of what Jesus prescribed. But still the angst for me is in trying to figure out what kind of value there is in the Old Testament here? What’s the lesson? Christians believe that the Old Testament is God’s word too right?

Devotionally speaking it could be an opportunity to thank God that we are in the time of voluntary religion over against involuntary. Perhaps this passage could serve as a warning to us, that even though we enjoy religious freedom, there is only one true God and those who turn away will one day face severe consequences. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2:10) We don’t force people to bow nowadays, but it doesn’t change the fact that one day they will. These Old Testament passages serve as a sober reminder that true faith is not found in a smorgasbord of belief options. Salvation does not come from a pick and choose,”It’s all good” kind of universalism. We all get to make our choices nowadays with who or what we worship, but still as in the Old Times there is only one right choice. In graphic and often troubling fashion these Old Testament passages remind us of this all important truth.

The Problem of Power & Pride

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16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. (II Chronicles 26:16

In the Biblical record of Jewish kings we see leader after leader succumbing to self absorption and then ruining all things good. Power corrupts.  Power turns itself into pride which results in problems for everyone. This isn’t just a localized problem that ancient Jewish kings experienced. This is every humans problem. It’s the story of human history! As I have read The History of the Medival World by Susan Wise Bauer and now GJ Meyers book on World War 1, this truth is the one constant! What is the cycle of human life?  Gain power — Develop inflated view of self — Hurt others — Repeat.

What protections do I have against the corrupting nature of power?

1) Embrace  A worldview that demands humility  — I believe that I am the one who is broken. I am forever in need of a Saviour. I am the one who needs mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

2) Embrace a lifestyle that seeks service as the greatest form of leadership  – “I am amoung you as one who serves” says Jesus, this “be great by serving others” model of living is exactly what Jesus attempted to instill in his followers.

3) Embrace a worship that exalts what is truly glorious. For the Christian, God is the creator and redeemer, the one who truly helps us and the one who will ultimately restore all the broken things in our lives and in this world. This God alone is worthy of the greatest praise. To celebrate the goodness of God in all things is of tremendous assistance when wanting to avoid the all to natural tendency towards self inflation.