Sunday, November 01, 2009

My View of the Bible and Authority

I had written a letter to the editor in my local paper... and i got a response! You can check out the first post under "Making Trouble Locally"

Bible always true
Regarding the letter by Luke (Oct. 18):

Pastor Cornell is, I am sure, much more concerned with speaking the truth as revealed in the Bible, which could be called speaking for God, than in speaking for other people. Some people claim to be Christians, but do not know or wish to know the Bible. Of course such a person would not want a Bible-believing Christian speaking for him.

The Bible is always true, but is not always comfortable. One cannot obtain or hold to the truth by allowing cultural norms or political correctness to determine beliefs and morality. What's popular isn't always right, and what's right isn't always popular.

So, read the Bible for yourself (I suggest starting with the book of John). Be patient, consider what it says; ask God to help you.

-John P.
i have a lot of questions for John P. like what does "always true and not always comfortable mean"? like does that mean we should kill cananites like Joshua commands even though it's uncomfortable? you may think i'm mocking but i've heard that a time or two, esp. from Zionist Christians who want to bring about the rapture. or is it true that cananites shouldn't be killed, after all Josh didn't finish the job and left a lot of loose ends. this would make the Bible still "true" but not everything is a good example to be followed to the letter. Form Criticism would be a helpful tool in determining what is a good idea and what is bad.

what pains me is the assumptions here. that "Some people claim to be Christians, but do not know or wish to know the Bible." assumes i don't know the bible and that I am not a bible-believing Christian. i wonder how he would define the two terms. anywho, i can honestly say that i spend a LOT of time with the bible and that my life has been transformed by it. and no, it wasn't comfortable. reading the bible never is.

we are confronted by views from another culture, another time, and a whole alien set of customs and beliefs. to top matters off, there is divine revelation lurking in each verse. what i mean to say is, the bible ISN'T THE word of God but contains it. The bible is not a God's Eye View of Humanity but a human eye view of God. this means cultural assumptions and such are wrapped up yet beyond it all is God in, around, and through it all.

it is only THROUGH reading the Bible that i came to be an Ally. a few passages stand out, namely God is the creator of all and all peoples, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, and that we are a particular people and who knows where the Spirit moves or where it is going. Peter and Cornelius the centurion immediately spring to mind and the moral of that story is "HOLY CRAP! The Holy Spirit is here TOO?!?!"

Christianity is about breaking down barriers that separate us. the pure from the inpure. Jew and Gentile. Pharisee and leper. the rational and the demon-possessed (our world would say 'crazy'), the God-fearer and the atheist, and that also means all races, classes, political pursuasions, genders, and EVEN sexual orientation.

so ultimately i can affirm what John P was asking me to do. everytime i pick up the bible i look for guidance. and that is where my authority lies... not by hiding behind what I THINK the scripture says, but praying intentionally about it and being open to being lead. and trust me... it would be easier as a Christian to hate the LGBTQ community because that's what it seems the majority is doing. it's much harder to stand outside and say "no!" i find myself in a particular place with strange company. not with Christians mostly, but with atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, wiccans, Buddhists, UU's, and every color of the Pride Flag. oy! i don't like where the Spirit takes me. it's painful!!! painful because i am being grown and stretched beyond the limits i would rather keep.

but that's where I get my authority. so no, i'm not a "bible believing Christian" i am a LIVING GOD believing Christian. why work with a book when you can talk with the inspiration directly?! so when i get myself into tight spots, i talk, i pray without ceasing, and i remember to ask where would Jesus stand? with the religious authorities of his day? or out with the outcasts? i think you know the answer i get from my Still Speaking God.


Anglican Boy said...

This is where my wife and I fight constantly. I hold a more traditional view of the Bible and she sounds more like you. I'm struggling here. It sounds like you're denying the authority of scripture. I'm uncomfortable with that. I would echo John P and say the Bible is always true. I don't see a problem here.

Luke said...


did you know that the most divisive issue in Church History was Sunday School? That is when congregations had to talk about what they thought the bible was and how to teach it(and whether or not to capitalize it, i see you do, i don't).

that beaing said i have two posts for you that i think would help give some background as to how i got here. first on the LGBTQ issue:

second on the "Bibilical" part:

I'm not denying the authority of scripture, my everyday language is ladened with it. however, i am saying the revelation of God is more important. most times i find that it doesn't contradict scripture, just my interpretation of it.

thank you again for your honest and peace!

Luke said...

p.s. on the exegetical paper, start from the bottom and read up.

Anonymous said...

The Bible can't always be true. It has sharply contrasting theologies within. Jesus as portayed in some gospels did not believe all the Bible of his day.

Anglican Boy said...

@Luke: Thank you for the old posts, I will check them out and comment there.

@Chris: Can you provide examples? I was taught to read the Bible as everything points to Jesus. To say Jesus didn't believe this blows my mind! Plus I was also taught that many hands were involved in writing the Bible but it has One author.

Anonymous said...

Jesus' statement that the rain falls on the just and the just, his comment to the man born blind about his suffering not being because of his sin or parents' sin wipes out a good bit of theology in the OT. Jesus comments in Mark's gosepl about nothing being unclean that goes in the mouth wipes out Leviticus. Compare Job and Ecclesiastes to much of OT on suffering. There is a boatload to look at. Read William Loader Jesus' Attitude towards the Law, Randel McCraw Helms, The Bible Against Itself, The Divine Symphony: The Bible's Many Voices, Hector Avalos, The End of Biblical Studies, and read my sermons/blog entries at All Parts of the Bible are Not the Word of God would be one sermon to read. Also, read the history of biblical interpretation giving special attention to Origen. You'll discover the steeples haven't told you the truth about a lot of things.

Anonymous said...

meant to type just and unjust

Al said...

AB, thanks for your honesty about where you and your wife stand (or sit). I think you are at least pausing, taking a breath, and then asking questions instead of jumping up and down and tossing Bible verses at a question (and then immediately leaving, as if the quoting of a verse or 5 automatically answers the question at hand, subject closed). I have seen WAY too much of the latter!
I also grew up being taught the same understanding. From more recent reading (and, I believe, Spirit-led contemplation) I am beginning to see that:
--our present-day 'traditional' view (infallible, literal, God-dictated) is really a more recent view, not held until that last few centuries.
--even though many people might SAY they take the Bible literally, they already know many sections that are not intended that way for today's Christian (OT law, for example), but still feel it is appropriate for other passages that are just as culturally determined as the OT was.
--saying (as John P. does) that he and Pastor Cornell "speak the truth as revealed in the Bible" actually means 'as I interpret the Bible'. I have no problem with that, as long as we ALL recognize that we ALL have our own interpretation of the Bible. I think it is quite significant that even literalists do not agree on what that literal interpretation should be. (just read all of the books about the end times, for example.) Although it may seem that this literal style is unbiased, in truth it is even more so since the bias is not admitted. (I think the often held conservative view against homosexuality illustrates how this bias permeates.)
Far better, I think, to learn about cultural setting or type of literature (allegory, narrative, etc.), for example, and then interpret, than to insist on some assumed (but undefined) indiscriminate rule of literalness.
--a 'only one style of interpretation permitted' attitude perpetuates the dogmatic approach to preaching (to be contrasted with dialogue, conversation, discussion).
--those who most adamantly affirm their belief in the Bible, hold to its truth, and proclaim its authority often fall terribly short of actually loving like the God I see revealed in Christ.
Sorry for my passion here, but I struggle with people who arrogantly think their style of interpretation is the only one God sanctions, but still don't seem to know His heart.
Luke, I love your: "the bible ISN'T THE word of God but contains it. The bible is not a God's Eye View of Humanity but a human eye view of God." I also like your reference to Peter and Cornelius, and how you became an Ally.
It seems this post has touched on many things that are on my heart lately. Thanks (I think!).

Anglican Boy said...

Al, Chris, and Luke:

Thank you for understanding. I loved your points Al, they spoke to me. Chris, thanks for your book suggestions. Any direct sermon I should check out? I am interested in your site, thanks for providing it. Luke, as always, thank you for your heart. You are truly inclusive.

Anonymous said...

I also encourage you to read these books:

Jesus Against Christianity by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer


Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament by Peter Enns. Enns, a conservative scholar, was fired due to the publication of this book.