Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Problem With Saying The Bible Is The Word Of God

Inevitably, whenever I engage with someone over the issue of whether or not the Word of God is Jesus or a Book about Jesus, the argument is always raised that “All scripture is God-breathed” [quoting from 2 Timothy 3:16] and therefore no one has any authority to question the Bible.

There are more than a few problems with this.

First of all, when Paul wrote those words in 2 Timothy, he was not thinking of the “Bible” in the same way that you and I might think of it today. 

To Paul, and to most First Century believers, the “Scriptures” were the Law and the Prophets and the Books of Wisdom, which would include the Psalms. It probably also included works that most Protestants today do not consider to be scripture like the Book of Enoch [which gets quoted in the New Testament book of Jude] and the Wisdom of Solomon and other Hebrew writings like Sirach and Tobit, that many considered to be Holy writings.

One thing for certain is that Paul was not thinking of his own epistles when he said this. It must be stressed that Paul did not think that he was writing Scripture when he wrote to the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc. He thought – correctly – that he was writing letters to various Christian communities who needed encouragement and wisdom about certain challenges that threatened their faith.

He also was most certainly not thinking about any of the four Gospels which were not even written when he said this.

Yes, we are very blessed to have copies of some of those epistles, and other Apostolic writings, but none of those people had any inkling that they were writing something that one day might be added to a book alongside Genesis, Isaiah or Malachi and considered scripture.

Secondly, the book that eventually became known as the Bible went through several wildly different forms before finally being Canonized in the Fourth Century. Before this the church referred to a fluid collection of Hebrew scriptures and First Century Apostolic writings and the various Gospel accounts for insight. 

In other words, their idea of scripture looked radically different from ours and, depending on who you were talking to and what time in Church history, you might be surprised what was considered scripture and what was not.

For example, several New Testament books that every Protestant today considers an essential part of the Bible were, at various times and by various Church Fathers, eliminated from the accepted Canon of Scripture. Books like Esther, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and James were left out of several lists of accepted books of scripture by many church leaders. 

Consequently, many other books that most Protestants have never even heard of were accepted by some as Canon like the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Book of Baruch, Jubilees and the Letter of Jeremiah, for example.

Sometime around 363 AD several attempts were made to establish an official and accepted list of which books or epistles were scripture and which should be eliminated. There was no firm consensus on the contents of that list for several decades, but eventually a group of Christian leaders – whose names the average christian does not even know – decided for the rest of us forevermore which books were to be accepted and which were to be rejected as scripture.

Today there is still no universal consensus on what is and what is not the “Bible” or Holy Scripture. 

Like the early church, depending on who you ask, and where you live, and what Christian tradition you belong to, the book you carry around and refer to as the Holy Bible might look very different from another book from another Christian community that might be called the “Bible.”

I’ve started to wonder, “How do we know those people who decided what was and what wasn’t Scripture got it right?” Furthermore, I’ve started to wonder who gave those men the authority to decide that God was no longer speaking to His people and inspiring them to write down what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them about the nature and character of God?

Why do we so blindly accept the authority of these nameless and faceless men who made these decisions for the rest of us? What if they didn’t really have the authority to make this decision? What if they left writings out, or included writings, in error? How are we so sure that they were inerrant and infallible in their process?

Ultimately, for those who insist on inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, what they are actually trusting in is the perfection of those decisions made by a group of people centuries ago about what was and wasn't worthy to be included in the Bible.

Frankly, the canon of Scripture most of us hold to today was originally compiled and assembled by people that most consider to be heretics today – namely Marcion and Origen – who were the original compilers of a canon and the basis for the bulk of what we accept as scripture, respectively. 

If we reject many of the theological assumptions of Marcion and Origen, why do we unquestionably accept their judgement regarding what is and what isn’t to be included in the Holy Bible?

Honestly, I am playing devil’s advocate here in many respects because I don’t outright reject everything that those two Church Fathers taught simply because I disagree with some of their theological conclusions. But for those who do reject those Church Fathers as heretics, I have to wonder why they have no trouble accepting their respective lists of what is and what isn’t their Bible.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Our Scriptures are a loose collection of writings by various people throughout history who were inspired by God to write down what they believed and what they experienced of God. 

Some of what we may currently accept as Scripture might not actually be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some of what we reject, or are simply unaware of due to obscurity, might actually be worth considering as a legitimate source of wisdom about God. 

But everything - and I do mean everything - needs to be filtered through the lens of Christ. If it lines up with our revelation of Him, we should take it to heart. If it disagrees with the Word of God who became flesh and came to dwell within us, we should dismiss it as being the flawed testimony of men.

Jesus is our hermeneutic. Jesus is our ultimate authority. Everything else is subject to Him and His authority.

So, before you claim that the Bible is the Word of God because Paul claimed that "all scripture is God-breathed" be sure to remember that what he considered scripture and what you're currently referring to as scripture are not the same. 

Also, remember that just because something is "God-breathed" doesn't mean it is infallible and inerrant. Humans are also "God-breathed" and we are neither infallible or inerrant. 

Yes, scripture [whatever that might be], "is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..." but determining how and in what ways scripture is profitable for us is something that must be discerned by the Holy Spirit of God that lives within each and every one of us.

This should cause each of us to cling more to Jesus and to dive deeper into Christ for wisdom and insight. 

After all, if we abide in Him then we experience Christ abiding in us, and this is the only way any of us can bear fruit.



Tim said...

"One thing for certain is that Paul was not thinking of his own epistles when he said this." (Same regarding the 4 gospels.)
I wonder what you consider the basis is "for certain" regarding what was in Paul’s mind? Do you think Paul was ignorant of the gospels being written at all? Paul quoted from the gospel writings. I know you are aware that Paul had direct communication with God regarding his assignment in God’s purposes. You must think this encounter with God left him ignorant of what God would preserve for eternity.

Somehow, in spite of your disbelief that Paul was speaking of all the NT books when he said “all scripture”, you come out with your “Ultimately…were inspired by God…” It makes a reader wonder what evidence leads you to have confidence in NT writings.

You ask a lot of questions that prove nothing nor are resolved to demonstrate that you would have any confidence in some piece of evidence.

Regarding authority, the great commission tells us Jesus has “all authority”. I think that includes the ability to accomplish whatever he wants without first showing you a name and a face.

I’m not waiting for “universal consent” to make use of the Bible we have for “teaching, rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness”. Why you would make a statement on this, in a way giving it credibility, when you personally give it no credibility? God’s word is not up for a popular vote needing unanimity for truthfulness.

I come away thinking you have a deep confidence in your experience with Christ but a low or “loose” confidence in the NT writings that tell us what Christ said. That seems odd to me. It seems the evidence should be the plumb line for experience, not the reverse.

Regarding Willard’s quote:
It seems like brother Willard has a disrespect for believers who have a ‘high view about the Bible” that he thinks are not living a depiction of the Bible. This quote is so nebulous it means nothing specifically. Is he accusing everyone who has a “high view about the Bible” of being a non-seeker, non-knower and non-liver of the Bible? Does he think that high view about the Bible is the totality of it’s importance to them? Does he think that having a low view about the Bible will produce a high interest in living the Bible? I am aware of some clear teachings in the Bible that 100% of Bible experts explain away (probably including Dallas Willard), but I won’t make a general accusation about them. I will be specific to the point. I am aware that a very large percentage of believers are in a bubble of thinking and practicing faith that they cannot recognize that key elements of their system of practice are direct reversals of what scripture says. That doesn't appear to me to result because they only have a high view about the Bible. Being stuck in the rut of traditions of men is a complicated trap with many protection systems placed around the enjoyable trap to perpetuate it's control.

Unknown said...

I whole-heartedly agree w/ T Aagard above.

If Jesus decided to knock Paul down & blind him to get his attention, I'd say that gives a good deal of credibility to Paul's writings being divinely inspired.

Ok, what if Paul was lying?? What if the Bible is a mish-mash hodge-podge of both divinely inspired & NOT divinely inspired writings??
What if??????
• Well, then probably nothing we believe is right.

In that event, suggesting to evaluate everything "through the lense of Jesus" would be asinine as well. Since our knowledge of Him would likely mostly be severely corrupted.

If you were to remain consistent in your theory & argumentation, the the option for the "Jesus lense" would be a bogus one.

Perhaps not you, but I'd expect to hear this concept from somebody that wants to modify Jesus & the Bible to align with THEIR beliefs. And typically THEIR beliefs would then qualify some type or form of sin as permissible.

Assuming this is more than your heretical daydream, are there parts/books/passages you feel shouldn't be there? Or concepts found in OTHER writings you believe are missing their rightful place in Scripture?

Mick Smith said...

Sadly the bible does seem at times to be put on too high a pedestal. There are many for whom the Trinity is Father, Sin, and Holy Scripture!! I often wonder why we have ended up with certain writings in, or not in, 'The Bible', and I suppose that is where we have to trust Father that He guided those who made these lifelong binding decisions!! Many of the New Testament letters also need to be read bearing in mind the culture at the time and indeed the local culture in different places. Too many different things to take into account.......think
I will just have to depend on the Holy Spirit in it al!!!

Unknown said...

HA! Just have to depend on the Holy Spirit??
You learned of the Holy Spirit FROM the Bible guy!?!? Don't you get that!
And you're referring to the writers of the Bible as just "writing to the people of that time," ASTHOUGH God WASN'T writing THROUGH THEM!
How convenient!!
NOW you can pick & choose what you WANT & DON'T WANT from Scripture and EVERYTHING is subjective!
.......AKA- Mick Smith gets to decide the nature & character of god.....
.....AKA- Mick Smith becomes god

My how the devil works in mysterious ways!

Keith Giles said...

Joshua: I get really tired of the constant refrain that says: "But you wouldn't know any of this without the Bible, dude!"

As if the source of the information is equal to the subject of that knowledge.

So, for example: My friend Carlos introduced me to my wife. Does that mean I should spend all my time with Carlos? I mean...I wouldn't even KNOW my wife if it wasn't for Carlos!?

No. I am grateful to Carlos for introducing me to my wife. But I did not fall in love with Carlos. I am in love with my wife and I am devoted to her.

In the same way: I can learn about Jesus from Scripture, but I don't have a relationship with the Bible. I have a relationship with Jesus.

" wouldn't even know about Jesus without the Bible?!"

Yes. This is true. But now that I know Jesus, I am fully engaged with knowing Him and learning to love Him and hear His voice, etc.

Our relationship is with the Living God - the one in whom we live and move and have our being - not with the Book that contains those words.

Does this mean that I get to pick and choose what I want?


I only get to submit to the reality and the truth of Jesus that is revealed to me through the Holy Spirit.

God is always about seeking that one-on-one relationship with us. We are somehow always really good at finding other things to put between us and Him: Prophets, Pastors, Scriptures, Formulas, etc.

He just wants a direct, daily, on-going relationship with us.

Why are we so afraid of that?

Unknown said...

Your wife isn't God though; and Carlos is no Bible.
With your ideology, you are INCAPABLE of "testing" any "spirits" as you have nothing FROM GOD to test it by.(Luke11:35)
You have a notions, theories, & best guesses.
"Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" & no part of Scripture explains that: "....but you'll figure it all out based on the way that you FEEL..."
We RELY on Scripture BECAUSE our OWN THOUGHTS, FEELINGS, AND HEARTS are corrupt through & through.
How are YOU going to tell the difference between what are Satan's REAL signs & wonders and what are not?? (Matt24:24
You are UNABLE to "exhort & reprove w/ authority" (Titus2:15) because YOUR "Bible" is merely some good thoughts and ideas written by mortal, sinful, fallible and will essentially be following the concepts and ways of the world.......when following the ideas of worldly men.(Colossians2:8)

Keith Giles said...

Strange that you don't consider the Holy Spirit of the Living God to be "FROM GOD"..?

I have the "mind of Christ" and both the Father and Son abide/make their home in me, and I am filled with the Holy Spirit who leads me into all Truth...not to mention that I can hear the voice of the Good

No guessing. No notions or theories.

If you really believe the Bible, please embrace what it teaches.

Scripture never tells us to lean on Scripture. It tells us to know Christ. It tells us we can know Him, hear Him, and live in Him.

Please, don't follow my thoughts and feelings, or your own. Please follow the Scriptures as they point you to know and follow Christ.


the alternative1 said...

that Josh guy is a lollypop!