The Bible as literature and what that means to us

Mike Beidler pointed me to an article entitled “The Bible as Human Literature” that culminates in the provocative question, “If Jesus is really raised from the dead, what do we lose if we consider the Bible as only human literature?” This is something I’ve been asking for quite a while, but I’ve not read any version of these thoughts written quite so well as in Alex McManus’s outstanding post. Please read it! Encountering writing that good and thinking that clear is exactly why I’ve tapered off on my own production on this blog of late. 🙂
I’d like to make some comments about this little excerpt.

God did not write the Bible.

Humans wrote the Bible.

Thus the Bible is not God’s written word if by that we mean that God wrote it.

    The Bible is human literature and humans are the authors. Just to be clear, the Bible is not co-authored by God and humans either. The Bible is only (by which I mean that the Bible is not divine) human literature.

    I tentatively made similar claims in my longwinded (and somewhat outdated) series on bibliology and hermeneutics. But more and more, I’ve decided that McManus’s comment about “only human” literature is in the right direction. At least in the sense that McManus presents it: as I have said before, the divine is the subject of the Bible, not the substance, so the degree to which it accurately represents the divine depends on how theologically accurate it is. There is, without doubt, absolute truth contained in the Bible. The question comes in about whether that truth is revealed as the intent of the passages in which it is contained or whether it is almost incidental, much in the way that a good photographer finds good subjects not because sunrises, laughing children, etc. are posing for him, but because he knows where to look and is prepared to take the shots when the opportunity arises.

    I’ve been reading Evolutionary Creation by Denis Lamoureux, the fullest treatment of a Christian approach to evolution that I am aware of (I highly recommend it). Lamoureux’s central contention in the early chapters is that the Bible, and particularly the OT, was never intended to mirror the details of historical and scientific reality perfectly (what he helpfully refers to as “historical” and “scientific concord”), but were accommodations of ancient history and science to the original audience for a greater purpose. Here again, this is something I argued for in the above mentioned series. Crucially, he insists that the Bible was intended to be theologically concordant. For Lamoureux, Scripture was intended to reveal certain infallible truths, which he calls “Messages of Faith”, and that they are merely wrapped in ancient science and history so that they would be understood by their original audience. And once more, I argued this as well. But even when I stated these propositions, something didn’t sit well with me: one of my greatest expectations in reading Evolutionary Creation (EC) was to gain a better understanding of how to go about finding those divine revelations and separate them from the errant notions the Hebrews had even about God and His ways.

    Instead, the problem became even more stark when I read EC. The fact is, sometimes what might otherwise appear as a divinely inspired message is noted to be incorrect, or incomplete at best (e.g. the three theodicies mentioned in EC: Genesis 3, Job, and Jesus, all of which Lamoureux counts as incomplete). Even worse, it’s next to impossible to tell which theological belief on the part of the writers is correct (revealed) and which is a product of their cultural ignorance (un-revealed, but inherited from earlier misconceptions). Most confusingly, Lamoureux argues (as I have) that both an inaccurate theological picture being taught and a new, revealed theological truth may occur within the same passage! For all we know, the “Message of Faith” in Romans 5.12ff might well have been (as it has appeared to believers throughout Church history) that Christ’s work was necessitated because of an historical Fall, except that this understanding has now been debunked by science. How many other things do we currently believe are Messages of Faith that simply haven’t had enough light shed on them? And what good is saying that God hid an infallible message in there somewhere when it’s impossible to verify which is accurate and which is not? It appears that, while rejecting historical/scientific concord, Lamoureux is engaging in some special pleading for theological concord, especially given that he himself debunks some theology contained in Scripture. It seems that he’s saying, “Everything that is true in the Bible is true, and nothing that isn’t,” in a way palatable to folks clinging to the old “inerrant and infallible” standard we were taught to uphold.

    It is attractive to think that lurking behind most every passage is a “Message of Faith” divinely deposited for us, but here I think even the good old audience relevance principle precludes us as direct recipients of those messages. So in the end, calling the Bible the “incarnational Word of God” is no more helpful than simply saying, as McManus puts its, that “the Bible exists because God encountered people — encountered not in the Bible but out here in the real world — and some of these people lived to tell about it,” and that sometimes their insights are dead on. But sometimes, not so much.

    This thinking is fledgling, but I’m finding it useful for understanding what I have gathered. If it sounds too extreme, keep in mind that I am still holding this tentatively enough to be talked out of it! I can’t think of a better way of posing it than McManus did: “What exactly do we lose if we consider the Bible to be exactly what it is, only human literature?” And in all candor, I’m not particularly interested in the standard evangelical appeal to consequence, “Well, this must be false because otherwise we don’t know what’s crap and what’s divine.” Apart from that, what are your thoughts?

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    • Kaffinator

      Responsible Biblical inerrantists interact with the fact that the Bible is human literature. But the orthodox Christian position asserts that the Bible is also revealed.

      So your question should be rephrased to reveal its true intent: “What if God had nothing directly to do with the Bible at all?” And the answer is: you sacrifice the Bible as being even remotely coherent.

      I don’t see a way for the perspective you propose to meaningfully interact with the Psalmist when he says “your word is very pure / therefore your servant loves it” or Paul when he refers to “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” or Jesus Himself when he says “scripture is unbreakable”.

      In the long run, I would rather err and be piteously, laughably wrong about evolution etc., than to row in the direct opposite direction from every word the Bible has to say about itself. Fortunately those are not my only two choices.

    • Kaffinator

      Responsible Biblical inerrantists interact with the fact that the Bible is human literature. But the orthodox Christian position asserts that the Bible is also revealed.

      So your question should be rephrased to reveal its true intent: “What if God had nothing directly to do with the Bible at all?” And the answer is: you sacrifice the Bible as being even remotely coherent.

      I don’t see a way for the perspective you propose to meaningfully interact with the Psalmist when he says “your word is very pure / therefore your servant loves it” or Paul when he refers to “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” or Jesus Himself when he says “scripture is unbreakable”.

      In the long run, I would rather err and be piteously, laughably wrong about evolution etc., than to row in the direct opposite direction from every word the Bible has to say about itself. Fortunately those are not my only two choices.

    • Thanks for the quick response, Kaffinator!

      So your question should be rephrased to reveal its true intent: “What if God had nothing directly to do with the Bible at all?” And the answer is: you sacrifice the Bible as being even remotely coherent.

      I wasn’t trying to hide my “true intent”. I was trying to strike a balance without marginalizing God altogether. I have maintained, and still see cause to maintain, that God intended the Scriptures for our use. It’s not just a happy accident that the biblical writers bore witness to the events of salvation history; rather, God revealed Himself to people He knew would testify to Himself. In my photography analogy, one could say He framed a sunset that would be worth photographing.

      I don’t see a way for the perspective you propose to meaningfully interact with the Psalmist when he says “your word is very pure / therefore your servant loves it” or Paul when he refers to “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” or Jesus Himself when he says “scripture is unbreakable”.

      The Scripture of the Psalmist was not the Scripture we have now anyway, so if he was defining “your word” as Scripture itself and affirming it to be so pure, it strikes me as a strange thing that what we have is so different. The Psalmist wasn’t referring to the canon, but to the received teaching of God. Similarly, Jesus and Paul were hardly referring to our canon, being as it had not been fully written when they spoke/wrote, nor even compiled until centuries later. The Word of God is the revelation of God; what I’m saying is that Scripture isn’t itself the revelation but a first-hand witness to the revelation. Insomuch as each witness was incapable of perfectly transmitting the revelation he received, we have an imperfect, yet still useful and trustworthy, record of revelation.

      I would rather err and be piteously, laughably wrong about evolution etc., than to row in the direct opposite direction from every word the Bible has to say about itself.

      Once again, the Bible cannot talk about itself, and the circular reasoning involved with accepting what it does say about its contents (specifically, the Law) is evident. Contrary to what presuppositional apologists will tell you, circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.

      What if the Bible were no more or less reliable than Josephus? Julius Caesar? Herodotus? We would still have something worth using. And, referencing McManus’s first question, so long as Jesus defeated death — an unprovable claim of faith — how much do we need the Bible to tell us this?

    • Thanks for the quick response, Kaffinator!

      So your question should be rephrased to reveal its true intent: “What if God had nothing directly to do with the Bible at all?” And the answer is: you sacrifice the Bible as being even remotely coherent.

      I wasn’t trying to hide my “true intent”. I was trying to strike a balance without marginalizing God altogether. I have maintained, and still see cause to maintain, that God intended the Scriptures for our use. It’s not just a happy accident that the biblical writers bore witness to the events of salvation history; rather, God revealed Himself to people He knew would testify to Himself. In my photography analogy, one could say He framed a sunset that would be worth photographing.

      I don’t see a way for the perspective you propose to meaningfully interact with the Psalmist when he says “your word is very pure / therefore your servant loves it” or Paul when he refers to “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” or Jesus Himself when he says “scripture is unbreakable”.

      The Scripture of the Psalmist was not the Scripture we have now anyway, so if he was defining “your word” as Scripture itself and affirming it to be so pure, it strikes me as a strange thing that what we have is so different. The Psalmist wasn’t referring to the canon, but to the received teaching of God. Similarly, Jesus and Paul were hardly referring to our canon, being as it had not been fully written when they spoke/wrote, nor even compiled until centuries later. The Word of God is the revelation of God; what I’m saying is that Scripture isn’t itself the revelation but a first-hand witness to the revelation. Insomuch as each witness was incapable of perfectly transmitting the revelation he received, we have an imperfect, yet still useful and trustworthy, record of revelation.

      I would rather err and be piteously, laughably wrong about evolution etc., than to row in the direct opposite direction from every word the Bible has to say about itself.

      Once again, the Bible cannot talk about itself, and the circular reasoning involved with accepting what it does say about its contents (specifically, the Law) is evident. Contrary to what presuppositional apologists will tell you, circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.

      What if the Bible were no more or less reliable than Josephus? Julius Caesar? Herodotus? We would still have something worth using. And, referencing McManus’s first question, so long as Jesus defeated death — an unprovable claim of faith — how much do we need the Bible to tell us this?

    • Kaffinator

      The Psalmist wasn’t referring to the canon, but to the received teaching of God.

      Correct. But don’t you see the yawning chasm between “the received teaching of God” versus a collection of human impressions of events God was involved with?

      The Word of God is the revelation of God; what I’m saying is that Scripture isn’t itself the revelation but a first-hand witness to the revelation.

      Show me where Jesus and Paul ever referred to the OT cannon as an intermediate to the word of God. No, they referred to it directly and explicitly AS the word of God. Should we do any less? Are we smarter than they on this subject?

      Once again, the Bible cannot talk about itself…circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.

      I think you employ a double standard here. If you talk about scripture, that’s OK but if David or Jesus or Paul or Peter talk about scripture, then it’s “circular reasoning”.

      In truth, the authors of scripture at least as free to refer to scripture as you or I. And I think it is obvious that those writers’ views of scripture are considerably higher than what you have expressed. Is it not then accurate to say your position is in opposition to theirs?

      What if the Bible were no more or less reliable than Josephus?

      Then we would have no more reason to heed it than we do the works of Josephus or for that matter any pagan writer. This reduces the Bible to an interesting historical artifact, and nothing more.

    • Kaffinator

      The Psalmist wasn’t referring to the canon, but to the received teaching of God.

      Correct. But don’t you see the yawning chasm between “the received teaching of God” versus a collection of human impressions of events God was involved with?

      The Word of God is the revelation of God; what I’m saying is that Scripture isn’t itself the revelation but a first-hand witness to the revelation.

      Show me where Jesus and Paul ever referred to the OT cannon as an intermediate to the word of God. No, they referred to it directly and explicitly AS the word of God. Should we do any less? Are we smarter than they on this subject?

      Once again, the Bible cannot talk about itself…circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.

      I think you employ a double standard here. If you talk about scripture, that’s OK but if David or Jesus or Paul or Peter talk about scripture, then it’s “circular reasoning”.

      In truth, the authors of scripture at least as free to refer to scripture as you or I. And I think it is obvious that those writers’ views of scripture are considerably higher than what you have expressed. Is it not then accurate to say your position is in opposition to theirs?

      What if the Bible were no more or less reliable than Josephus?

      Then we would have no more reason to heed it than we do the works of Josephus or for that matter any pagan writer. This reduces the Bible to an interesting historical artifact, and nothing more.

    • Kaffinator

      So long as Jesus defeated death — an unprovable claim of faith — how much do we need the Bible to tell us this?

      Look, ideas have consequences.

      If Jesus was who said He was then Jesus truly is the living God and the author and perfector of our faith.

      If that is so then it behooves those who follow Him, to learn from Him.

      One of the many things we can learn from Him, is how He views the scriptures, and conform our views accordingly.

    • Kaffinator

      So long as Jesus defeated death — an unprovable claim of faith — how much do we need the Bible to tell us this?

      Look, ideas have consequences.

      If Jesus was who said He was then Jesus truly is the living God and the author and perfector of our faith.

      If that is so then it behooves those who follow Him, to learn from Him.

      One of the many things we can learn from Him, is how He views the scriptures, and conform our views accordingly.

    • Thanks for your challenging thoughts. Yes, ideas have consequences, and that’s why I’m asking my readers to let me know the consequences. Just don’t think that the desirability of the consequences in any way determines the accuracy of the ideas. I’m interested in seeing, via the law of contradictions, what definitely accurate ideas are contradicted by a view like this.

      But don’t you see the yawning chasm between “the received teaching of God” versus a collection of human impressions of events God was involved with?

      Yes and no. I don’t doubt that the Psalmist implicitly trusted everything in his canon as the teaching of God. I said “received teaching of God” because, as human impressions go, they were not necessarily Perfect Truth as he understood it. But the thing is, the ancients didn’t have the same strict definition of “perfection” as we do, so it would be unjust to really say he was wrong based upon our standards of science, history, etc.

      Show me where Jesus and Paul ever referred to the OT cannon as an intermediate to the word of God. No, they referred to it directly and explicitly AS the word of God. Should we do any less? Are we smarter than they on this subject?

      Show me where Jesus or Paul ever referred to the OT canon as the “word of God” per se at all. They referred to specific parts as inspired, “unbreakable”, etc. I fully believe this to be the case as well. But the whole canon as the word of God?

      I think you employ a double standard here. If you talk about scripture, that’s OK but if David or Jesus or Paul or Peter talk about scripture, then it’s “circular reasoning”.

      No, my point was contra the question-begging involved with trying to prove the Scripture as perfect by words attributed to those folks within Scripture.

      Is it not then accurate to say your position is in opposition to theirs?

      Let me ask you this: does your position on origins not stand in opposition to some views expressed by the biblical writers, sometimes in the mouths of people as eminent as Jesus?

      This reduces the Bible to an interesting historical artifact, and nothing more.

      An interesting historical artifact that happens to testify to the Creator of the universe and Jesus’ life and words? “Nothing more” than that, I grant you, but gosh…that’s so much more important than Tacitus’ Germania. It’s the subject that makes it more valuable. A photograph of a finch vs. a photograph of a unicorn. If someone caught a unicorn on camera, it would demean the importance of the find not at all to say that it was “only” taken with a camera of the type commonly used to take pictures of birds.

      One of the many things we can learn from Him, is how He views the scriptures, and conform our views accordingly.

      So, once again: do you affirm the historicity of the Noachian flood and the creation account? How about the mustard seed as the tiniest seed in the world? It seems that the all-or-nothing approach leaves you more often with nothing than with all.

    • Thanks for your challenging thoughts. Yes, ideas have consequences, and that’s why I’m asking my readers to let me know the consequences. Just don’t think that the desirability of the consequences in any way determines the accuracy of the ideas. I’m interested in seeing, via the law of contradictions, what definitely accurate ideas are contradicted by a view like this.

      But don’t you see the yawning chasm between “the received teaching of God” versus a collection of human impressions of events God was involved with?

      Yes and no. I don’t doubt that the Psalmist implicitly trusted everything in his canon as the teaching of God. I said “received teaching of God” because, as human impressions go, they were not necessarily Perfect Truth as he understood it. But the thing is, the ancients didn’t have the same strict definition of “perfection” as we do, so it would be unjust to really say he was wrong based upon our standards of science, history, etc.

      Show me where Jesus and Paul ever referred to the OT cannon as an intermediate to the word of God. No, they referred to it directly and explicitly AS the word of God. Should we do any less? Are we smarter than they on this subject?

      Show me where Jesus or Paul ever referred to the OT canon as the “word of God” per se at all. They referred to specific parts as inspired, “unbreakable”, etc. I fully believe this to be the case as well. But the whole canon as the word of God?

      I think you employ a double standard here. If you talk about scripture, that’s OK but if David or Jesus or Paul or Peter talk about scripture, then it’s “circular reasoning”.

      No, my point was contra the question-begging involved with trying to prove the Scripture as perfect by words attributed to those folks within Scripture.

      Is it not then accurate to say your position is in opposition to theirs?

      Let me ask you this: does your position on origins not stand in opposition to some views expressed by the biblical writers, sometimes in the mouths of people as eminent as Jesus?

      This reduces the Bible to an interesting historical artifact, and nothing more.

      An interesting historical artifact that happens to testify to the Creator of the universe and Jesus’ life and words? “Nothing more” than that, I grant you, but gosh…that’s so much more important than Tacitus’ Germania. It’s the subject that makes it more valuable. A photograph of a finch vs. a photograph of a unicorn. If someone caught a unicorn on camera, it would demean the importance of the find not at all to say that it was “only” taken with a camera of the type commonly used to take pictures of birds.

      One of the many things we can learn from Him, is how He views the scriptures, and conform our views accordingly.

      So, once again: do you affirm the historicity of the Noachian flood and the creation account? How about the mustard seed as the tiniest seed in the world? It seems that the all-or-nothing approach leaves you more often with nothing than with all.

    • Kaffinator

      Yes, ideas have consequences, and that’s why I’m asking my readers to let me know the consequences. Just don’t think that the desirability of the consequences in any way determines the accuracy of the ideas.

      But that was not my point. My point was that accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah has inescapable consequences, one of them being a much higher view of scripture than the ideas you present above.

      I’m interested in seeing, via the law of contradictions, what definitely accurate ideas are contradicted by a view like this.

      Here is the contradiction: if Jesus thought the scriptures were the explicit word of God, and you do not, then one of you is wrong.

      I don’t doubt that the Psalmist implicitly trusted everything in his canon as the teaching of God. I said “received teaching of God” because, as human impressions go, they were not necessarily Perfect Truth as he understood it. But the thing is, the ancients didn’t have the same strict definition of “perfection” as we do, so it would be unjust to really say he was wrong based upon our standards of science, history, etc.

      Equivocating on the definition of “perfection” does not resolve the tension. The Psalmist expressed a view of the teachings of God, referring to the written scriptures. You do not share that view, putting you in conflict with what the scriptures teach about the word of God. Are prepared to accept the consequences?

      Show me where Jesus or Paul ever referred to the OT canon as the “word of God” per se at all.

      Certainly. In John 10:34-35, Jesus says “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), …”. Look at the claim Jesus is making. If we were to break this into a syllogism it would look like this:

      A. The Psalmist “to whom the word of God came” expressed a statement in scripture (referred to in shorthand as “Law”)
      B. Scripture cannot be broken.
      C. Therefore, you must consider the Psalmist’s statement to be true.

      If it could be said that the Psalmist or any other part of the Law/word of God were simply flat out wrong, then Jesus’ argument would not have had any force.

      No, my point was contra the question-begging involved with trying to prove the Scripture as perfect by words attributed to those folks within Scripture.

      It is not question-begging to assert that the biblical authors had a high view of scripture. It is a sufficient demonstration for orthodox Christians because we are generally not interested in directly opposing people like Paul, David, and Jesus.

      Let me ask you this: does your position on origins not stand in opposition to some views expressed by the biblical writers, sometimes in the mouths of people as eminent as Jesus?

      If my position on origins is in opposition to Jesus Christ’s then my position is wrong and I must repent of it. I ask you again: is your position on scripture in opposition to Jesus Christ’s?

      An interesting historical artifact that happens to testify to the Creator of the universe and Jesus’ life and words? “Nothing more” than that, I grant you, but gosh…that’s so much more important than Tacitus’ Germania. It’s the subject that makes it more valuable.

      If it is merely the subject that makes a writing valuable, then your or I or Sylvia Brown could write about creation and Jesus and, voila, what we wrote would be of equal value as the Bible. Of course, it just aint so.

      So, once again: do you affirm the historicity of the Noachian flood and the creation account? How about the mustard seed as the tiniest seed in the world?

      If my choice is between a room full of scoffing PhDs arguing about the width of vegetable seeds, and the Lord of Creation, it’s not really much of a contest, is it? But like I said, I’m glad not to have to decide between tossing all of science or tossing all of scripture. There are a number of workable mediating positions that sacrifice neither Christ’s own view of the scripture, nor the contributions of legitimate science.

      It seems that the all-or-nothing approach leaves you more often with nothing than with all.

      Haven’t I heard it said somewhere that the desirability of the consequences does not determine the accuracy of the idea? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

    • Kaffinator

      Yes, ideas have consequences, and that’s why I’m asking my readers to let me know the consequences. Just don’t think that the desirability of the consequences in any way determines the accuracy of the ideas.

      But that was not my point. My point was that accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah has inescapable consequences, one of them being a much higher view of scripture than the ideas you present above.

      I’m interested in seeing, via the law of contradictions, what definitely accurate ideas are contradicted by a view like this.

      Here is the contradiction: if Jesus thought the scriptures were the explicit word of God, and you do not, then one of you is wrong.

      I don’t doubt that the Psalmist implicitly trusted everything in his canon as the teaching of God. I said “received teaching of God” because, as human impressions go, they were not necessarily Perfect Truth as he understood it. But the thing is, the ancients didn’t have the same strict definition of “perfection” as we do, so it would be unjust to really say he was wrong based upon our standards of science, history, etc.

      Equivocating on the definition of “perfection” does not resolve the tension. The Psalmist expressed a view of the teachings of God, referring to the written scriptures. You do not share that view, putting you in conflict with what the scriptures teach about the word of God. Are prepared to accept the consequences?

      Show me where Jesus or Paul ever referred to the OT canon as the “word of God” per se at all.

      Certainly. In John 10:34-35, Jesus says “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), …”. Look at the claim Jesus is making. If we were to break this into a syllogism it would look like this:

      A. The Psalmist “to whom the word of God came” expressed a statement in scripture (referred to in shorthand as “Law”)
      B. Scripture cannot be broken.
      C. Therefore, you must consider the Psalmist’s statement to be true.

      If it could be said that the Psalmist or any other part of the Law/word of God were simply flat out wrong, then Jesus’ argument would not have had any force.

      No, my point was contra the question-begging involved with trying to prove the Scripture as perfect by words attributed to those folks within Scripture.

      It is not question-begging to assert that the biblical authors had a high view of scripture. It is a sufficient demonstration for orthodox Christians because we are generally not interested in directly opposing people like Paul, David, and Jesus.

      Let me ask you this: does your position on origins not stand in opposition to some views expressed by the biblical writers, sometimes in the mouths of people as eminent as Jesus?

      If my position on origins is in opposition to Jesus Christ’s then my position is wrong and I must repent of it. I ask you again: is your position on scripture in opposition to Jesus Christ’s?

      An interesting historical artifact that happens to testify to the Creator of the universe and Jesus’ life and words? “Nothing more” than that, I grant you, but gosh…that’s so much more important than Tacitus’ Germania. It’s the subject that makes it more valuable.

      If it is merely the subject that makes a writing valuable, then your or I or Sylvia Brown could write about creation and Jesus and, voila, what we wrote would be of equal value as the Bible. Of course, it just aint so.

      So, once again: do you affirm the historicity of the Noachian flood and the creation account? How about the mustard seed as the tiniest seed in the world?

      If my choice is between a room full of scoffing PhDs arguing about the width of vegetable seeds, and the Lord of Creation, it’s not really much of a contest, is it? But like I said, I’m glad not to have to decide between tossing all of science or tossing all of scripture. There are a number of workable mediating positions that sacrifice neither Christ’s own view of the scripture, nor the contributions of legitimate science.

      It seems that the all-or-nothing approach leaves you more often with nothing than with all.

      Haven’t I heard it said somewhere that the desirability of the consequences does not determine the accuracy of the idea? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

    • My point was that accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah has inescapable consequences, one of them being a much higher view of scripture than the ideas you present above.

      But you have not demonstrated this. Even believing that the historical Christ was an absolutely omniscient human doesn’t guarantee that the Bible accurately captures his omniscience. Repeat after me: “Jesus isn’t the Bible; the Bible isn’t Jesus.” Rinse. Repeat. 😉

      Here is the contradiction: if Jesus thought the scriptures were the explicit word of God, and you do not, then one of you is wrong.

      There is not any necessary contradiction there. Number one, we have no evidence of him referring to the OT as the “explicit word of God”. Number two, what does “explicit word of God” even mean? And number three, it requires that Jesus was omniscient, when he clearly wasn’t, even on theological matters: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13.32). His prayer in Mat 2.39 shows that he held out hope against hope that he may avoid crucifixion. He had to be led by the Holy Spirit (Mat 4.1). In John 12.49, Jesus admits that he was not naturally privy to the content of his own teaching, but depended on the Father to tell him what to say. The list goes on. It is clear that, unless the Father told him, he would have thought the sun orbited the earth, that the innards and not the brain were the organs of thought, etc. So is it so heretical to conjecture that, even if we accept your argument that Jesus thought the OT was the inerrant ipsissima verba dei, that this wouldn’t by logical necessity mean that it was an accurate perception?

      In John 10:34-35, Jesus says “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), …”.

      Well done: I had not thought of this passage. And it’s really not all that surprising that Jesus would think that, given that his coevals seemed committed to that idea. The Scripture could not be disregarded. But this, taken as literal fact, insists that you take inerrancy to the letter in the Old Testament. If you do, good on you for consistency, but I am not prepared to do this, given several undeniable internal contradictions. And once I allow one Scripture to “be broken” (if that’s what Jesus meant), I have already placed myself afoul of Jesus’ reputed words in John. I’m not going to get into the question of the critical consensus on the Fourth Gospel here, but my whole argument is that passages like this may not wholly accurately reflect Jesus’ words. It is theoretically possible that the “cannot be broken” line was a parenthetical interpolation by the author attributed to Jesus. And it could be an example of accommodation seen elsewhere in Jesus’ arguments with the religious leaders in which he says, “You say this; ok, fine. If that’s true, then…”

      If it is merely the subject that makes a writing valuable, then your or I or Sylvia Brown could write about creation and Jesus and, voila, what we wrote would be of equal value as the Bible. Of course, it just aint so.

      It is not merely the subject, but the first-hand witness to the subject. They were participants in salvation history, so I would expect testimony from Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo to be just a little less credible. 😀 Josephus is considered reliable on the stuff he was witness to, and much less so on his speculations about the history of the world according to the Hebrew Scriptures (although this testimony is naturally useful for knowing how some of his contemporaries interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures).

      If my choice is between a room full of scoffing PhDs arguing about the width of vegetable seeds, and the Lord of Creation, it’s not really much of a contest, is it?

      Depends on 1) whether the Lord of Creation was omniscient while in the flesh and 2) whether his words are accurately recorded, doesn’t it? You’re begging the question again.

      I didn’t mean that you should choose based upon whether you wanted all or nothing. 🙂 I meant that insisting upon perfection in Scripture followed by confrontation with obvious errors leads inexorably to either the fantasy Land of Denial or acceptance of errors and rejection of Scripture, and usually the latter. I was merely noting that you seemed to be straddling an electric fence.

      You sound almost offended, and I wish it weren’t so, but I suppose I understand what you think is stake.

    • My point was that accepting Jesus Christ as Messiah has inescapable consequences, one of them being a much higher view of scripture than the ideas you present above.

      But you have not demonstrated this. Even believing that the historical Christ was an absolutely omniscient human doesn’t guarantee that the Bible accurately captures his omniscience. Repeat after me: “Jesus isn’t the Bible; the Bible isn’t Jesus.” Rinse. Repeat. 😉

      Here is the contradiction: if Jesus thought the scriptures were the explicit word of God, and you do not, then one of you is wrong.

      There is not any necessary contradiction there. Number one, we have no evidence of him referring to the OT as the “explicit word of God”. Number two, what does “explicit word of God” even mean? And number three, it requires that Jesus was omniscient, when he clearly wasn’t, even on theological matters: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13.32). His prayer in Mat 2.39 shows that he held out hope against hope that he may avoid crucifixion. He had to be led by the Holy Spirit (Mat 4.1). In John 12.49, Jesus admits that he was not naturally privy to the content of his own teaching, but depended on the Father to tell him what to say. The list goes on. It is clear that, unless the Father told him, he would have thought the sun orbited the earth, that the innards and not the brain were the organs of thought, etc. So is it so heretical to conjecture that, even if we accept your argument that Jesus thought the OT was the inerrant ipsissima verba dei, that this wouldn’t by logical necessity mean that it was an accurate perception?

      In John 10:34-35, Jesus says “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), …”.

      Well done: I had not thought of this passage. And it’s really not all that surprising that Jesus would think that, given that his coevals seemed committed to that idea. The Scripture could not be disregarded. But this, taken as literal fact, insists that you take inerrancy to the letter in the Old Testament. If you do, good on you for consistency, but I am not prepared to do this, given several undeniable internal contradictions. And once I allow one Scripture to “be broken” (if that’s what Jesus meant), I have already placed myself afoul of Jesus’ reputed words in John. I’m not going to get into the question of the critical consensus on the Fourth Gospel here, but my whole argument is that passages like this may not wholly accurately reflect Jesus’ words. It is theoretically possible that the “cannot be broken” line was a parenthetical interpolation by the author attributed to Jesus. And it could be an example of accommodation seen elsewhere in Jesus’ arguments with the religious leaders in which he says, “You say this; ok, fine. If that’s true, then…”

      If it is merely the subject that makes a writing valuable, then your or I or Sylvia Brown could write about creation and Jesus and, voila, what we wrote would be of equal value as the Bible. Of course, it just aint so.

      It is not merely the subject, but the first-hand witness to the subject. They were participants in salvation history, so I would expect testimony from Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo to be just a little less credible. 😀 Josephus is considered reliable on the stuff he was witness to, and much less so on his speculations about the history of the world according to the Hebrew Scriptures (although this testimony is naturally useful for knowing how some of his contemporaries interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures).

      If my choice is between a room full of scoffing PhDs arguing about the width of vegetable seeds, and the Lord of Creation, it’s not really much of a contest, is it?

      Depends on 1) whether the Lord of Creation was omniscient while in the flesh and 2) whether his words are accurately recorded, doesn’t it? You’re begging the question again.

      I didn’t mean that you should choose based upon whether you wanted all or nothing. 🙂 I meant that insisting upon perfection in Scripture followed by confrontation with obvious errors leads inexorably to either the fantasy Land of Denial or acceptance of errors and rejection of Scripture, and usually the latter. I was merely noting that you seemed to be straddling an electric fence.

      You sound almost offended, and I wish it weren’t so, but I suppose I understand what you think is stake.

    • Hi Steve,
      Very interesting post. I am treading similar territory right now. I think there is some sort of persistent hermeneutic religious fog around that leads to very inconsistent thinking. Jesus or John parenthetically says ” (and the Scripture cannot be broken)” relating to Ps 82:6 so the Scriptures are obviously inerrant, and yet we don’t blink when the Ps 119:160 says: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”

      Something doesn’t add up here. Sure there are dispensations, reformations, covenants and the like to explain these sorts of things, but ultimately it seems you should either treat the OT as obsolete, and hence no longer applicable, or because Jesus made no such distinctions consider it to still be in full force–which leads to yet other inconsistencies (e.g., Romans 14:14
      I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.).

      I am wondering if the Scripture is deeply flawed — like every other heroic figure in the Bible except for Jesus. If it wasn’t I have no doubts it would become an idol, and arguably it already has for some people.

      — Vance

      VanceH-´s last blog post..The Point

    • Hi Steve,
      Very interesting post. I am treading similar territory right now. I think there is some sort of persistent hermeneutic religious fog around that leads to very inconsistent thinking. Jesus or John parenthetically says ” (and the Scripture cannot be broken)” relating to Ps 82:6 so the Scriptures are obviously inerrant, and yet we don’t blink when the Ps 119:160 says: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”

      Something doesn’t add up here. Sure there are dispensations, reformations, covenants and the like to explain these sorts of things, but ultimately it seems you should either treat the OT as obsolete, and hence no longer applicable, or because Jesus made no such distinctions consider it to still be in full force–which leads to yet other inconsistencies (e.g., Romans 14:14
      I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.).

      I am wondering if the Scripture is deeply flawed — like every other heroic figure in the Bible except for Jesus. If it wasn’t I have no doubts it would become an idol, and arguably it already has for some people.

      — Vance

      VanceH-´s last blog post..The Point

    • Kaffinator

      But you have not demonstrated this. Even believing that the historical Christ was an absolutely omniscient human doesn’t guarantee that the Bible accurately captures his omniscience.

      I need not prove either inerrancy or Jesus’ omniscience to make my case. My case is far more easily made:

      a) The Bible is at least reasonably accurate in representing Jesus’ teachings.
      b) Jesus consistently teaches that scripture is the word of God and is therefore trustworthy.
      c) A position that views scripture as untrustworthy, or something other than the word of God, can only be held in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

      Sorry if I caused confusion with the phrase “explicit word of God”. I needed a way to differentiate from your idea that the Bible might be merely a “first-hand witness” but not explicitly revealed in its own right. If it helps I will refer to scripture itself as the revealed word.

      So is it so heretical to conjecture that, even if we accept your argument that Jesus thought the OT was [inerrant], that this wouldn’t by logical necessity mean that it was an accurate perception?

      It’s not so important what Jesus “thought”, which we are rarely privy to. What matters is what Jesus taught. His teaching on this point was clear and consistent. The Hebrew scriptures contained the actual revealed word of God, and must therefore be considered trustworthy.

      If you hold that Jesus walked around teaching error to people then, um, yes, that is a damnable heresy which requires confession and repentance.

      It is theoretically possible that the “cannot be broken” line was a parenthetical interpolation by the author attributed to Jesus.

      So you suggest the phrase could have been a later scribal addition. Do you have any actual evidence that this is the case? For example, is it somehow inconsistent with other things Jesus said? Is it anachronistic? Does it not appear in a majority of Greek sources? … Or is it simply that the passage is inconvenient?

      Besides, it is not as if there is a paucity of other verses in which Jesus quotes Old Testament scripture as the Word of God (e.g. Matthew 4:4) and/or unbreakable (e.g. Matthew 15:4-6).

      It is not merely the subject, but the first-hand witness to the subject. They were participants in salvation history, so I would expect testimony from Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo to be just a little less credible.

      Well then we agree at least this far: the Bible is valuable at least because a) it concerns the things of God and b) it comes from trustworthy sources. So why then do you seem to disregard what the Biblical authors say about scripture itself as if they were expressing uninformed opinion?

      I meant that insisting upon perfection in Scripture followed by confrontation with obvious errors leads inexorably to either the fantasy Land of Denial or acceptance of errors and rejection of Scripture, and usually the latter. I was merely noting that you seemed to be straddling an electric fence.

      But this argument is not even remotely about inerrancy. It’s about whether the words of scripture are themselves revealed. Jesus teaches that they are, you teach that they are not. I ask you a third and final time: do you deny it?

      Whatever the horns of the dilemma I might face, I would prefer them to outright rejection of Jesus’ plain teachings.

      You sound almost offended, and I wish it weren’t so, but I suppose I understand what you think is stake.

      Oh, come now. I’m merely giving your argument the serious consideration you requested.

      But I will confide in you: If I get emotional it is because I can think of no teaching that causes more grave or sustained harm to the church than this: to disregard the scriptures. For it is only by God’s revealed word that His eternal truths are made known to us. Without them there is no way to correct or even discover any other significant error. Perhaps Vance thinks I idolize the scriptures; I merely wish to see the scriptures as Jesus Himself did.

    • Kaffinator

      But you have not demonstrated this. Even believing that the historical Christ was an absolutely omniscient human doesn’t guarantee that the Bible accurately captures his omniscience.

      I need not prove either inerrancy or Jesus’ omniscience to make my case. My case is far more easily made:

      a) The Bible is at least reasonably accurate in representing Jesus’ teachings.
      b) Jesus consistently teaches that scripture is the word of God and is therefore trustworthy.
      c) A position that views scripture as untrustworthy, or something other than the word of God, can only be held in contradiction with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

      Sorry if I caused confusion with the phrase “explicit word of God”. I needed a way to differentiate from your idea that the Bible might be merely a “first-hand witness” but not explicitly revealed in its own right. If it helps I will refer to scripture itself as the revealed word.

      So is it so heretical to conjecture that, even if we accept your argument that Jesus thought the OT was [inerrant], that this wouldn’t by logical necessity mean that it was an accurate perception?

      It’s not so important what Jesus “thought”, which we are rarely privy to. What matters is what Jesus taught. His teaching on this point was clear and consistent. The Hebrew scriptures contained the actual revealed word of God, and must therefore be considered trustworthy.

      If you hold that Jesus walked around teaching error to people then, um, yes, that is a damnable heresy which requires confession and repentance.

      It is theoretically possible that the “cannot be broken” line was a parenthetical interpolation by the author attributed to Jesus.

      So you suggest the phrase could have been a later scribal addition. Do you have any actual evidence that this is the case? For example, is it somehow inconsistent with other things Jesus said? Is it anachronistic? Does it not appear in a majority of Greek sources? … Or is it simply that the passage is inconvenient?

      Besides, it is not as if there is a paucity of other verses in which Jesus quotes Old Testament scripture as the Word of God (e.g. Matthew 4:4) and/or unbreakable (e.g. Matthew 15:4-6).

      It is not merely the subject, but the first-hand witness to the subject. They were participants in salvation history, so I would expect testimony from Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo to be just a little less credible.

      Well then we agree at least this far: the Bible is valuable at least because a) it concerns the things of God and b) it comes from trustworthy sources. So why then do you seem to disregard what the Biblical authors say about scripture itself as if they were expressing uninformed opinion?

      I meant that insisting upon perfection in Scripture followed by confrontation with obvious errors leads inexorably to either the fantasy Land of Denial or acceptance of errors and rejection of Scripture, and usually the latter. I was merely noting that you seemed to be straddling an electric fence.

      But this argument is not even remotely about inerrancy. It’s about whether the words of scripture are themselves revealed. Jesus teaches that they are, you teach that they are not. I ask you a third and final time: do you deny it?

      Whatever the horns of the dilemma I might face, I would prefer them to outright rejection of Jesus’ plain teachings.

      You sound almost offended, and I wish it weren’t so, but I suppose I understand what you think is stake.

      Oh, come now. I’m merely giving your argument the serious consideration you requested.

      But I will confide in you: If I get emotional it is because I can think of no teaching that causes more grave or sustained harm to the church than this: to disregard the scriptures. For it is only by God’s revealed word that His eternal truths are made known to us. Without them there is no way to correct or even discover any other significant error. Perhaps Vance thinks I idolize the scriptures; I merely wish to see the scriptures as Jesus Himself did.

    • Kaffinator

      A short addendum. A better example of Jesus teaching on the unbreakability of scripture is Matthew 5:18.

    • Kaffinator

      A short addendum. A better example of Jesus teaching on the unbreakability of scripture is Matthew 5:18.

    • If you hold that Jesus walked around teaching error to people then, um, yes, that is a damnable heresy which requires confession and repentance.

      Hmmmmm. Kaffinator, what (in your mind) would constitute the teaching of error insofar as Jesus is concerned? If I believe that Jesus was mistaken on his identification of the mustard seed as the world’s smallest seed, should I be stocking up on fire-retardent?

      A short addendum. A better example of Jesus teaching on the unbreakability of scripture is Matthew 5:18.

      Another hmmmmm. Is heaven and earth still here? If so, are you still under the Mosaic Law? In short, what do you understand this verse to say?

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • If you hold that Jesus walked around teaching error to people then, um, yes, that is a damnable heresy which requires confession and repentance.

      Hmmmmm. Kaffinator, what (in your mind) would constitute the teaching of error insofar as Jesus is concerned? If I believe that Jesus was mistaken on his identification of the mustard seed as the world’s smallest seed, should I be stocking up on fire-retardent?

      A short addendum. A better example of Jesus teaching on the unbreakability of scripture is Matthew 5:18.

      Another hmmmmm. Is heaven and earth still here? If so, are you still under the Mosaic Law? In short, what do you understand this verse to say?

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • Kaffinator

      If I believe that Jesus was mistaken on his identification of the mustard seed as the world’s smallest seed, should I be stocking up on fire-retardent?

      As you well know, Jesus was not holding forth on biology. He was making a point about faith.

      Our host insinuated that Jesus might have taught error while on earth. What do you think?

      Is heaven and earth still here? If so, are you still under the Mosaic Law? In short, what do you understand this verse to say?

      A more interesting and relevant question, Mike, is do you believe this passage is a good example on Jesus’ thoughts about the importance and reliability of the Old Testament?

      How would you describe Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, given what we know from the gospels? Was it the word of God? Did He consider it authoritative and trustworthy?

      And what impact should His view on scripture have on our own, if we call ourselves His followers?

    • Kaffinator

      If I believe that Jesus was mistaken on his identification of the mustard seed as the world’s smallest seed, should I be stocking up on fire-retardent?

      As you well know, Jesus was not holding forth on biology. He was making a point about faith.

      Our host insinuated that Jesus might have taught error while on earth. What do you think?

      Is heaven and earth still here? If so, are you still under the Mosaic Law? In short, what do you understand this verse to say?

      A more interesting and relevant question, Mike, is do you believe this passage is a good example on Jesus’ thoughts about the importance and reliability of the Old Testament?

      How would you describe Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, given what we know from the gospels? Was it the word of God? Did He consider it authoritative and trustworthy?

      And what impact should His view on scripture have on our own, if we call ourselves His followers?

    • Ray

      Hi Steve, I can’t really enter into this conversation, and have only had time to skim the comments thus far, but I really like where you are coming from. I like that you are not using circular reasoning to prove how the scriptures are to be read. I like this quote, because I think it is true about presuppositional apologetics:
      “Contrary to what presuppositional apologists will tell you, circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.”
      And I like the way you are honestly trying to engage the bible and remain steadfast in your faith at the same time. Those are great things to do. I’ll keep reading along, this is just a quick, “thanks,” and “keep up the good work.”

    • Ray

      Hi Steve, I can’t really enter into this conversation, and have only had time to skim the comments thus far, but I really like where you are coming from. I like that you are not using circular reasoning to prove how the scriptures are to be read. I like this quote, because I think it is true about presuppositional apologetics:
      “Contrary to what presuppositional apologists will tell you, circular reasoning doesn’t become holy just because it’s reasoning about the Bible.”
      And I like the way you are honestly trying to engage the bible and remain steadfast in your faith at the same time. Those are great things to do. I’ll keep reading along, this is just a quick, “thanks,” and “keep up the good work.”

    • Ray

      Oh, I can engage one thing, I’m working through Enns and Sparks and regarding what you said here:

      “It is attractive to think that lurking behind most every passage is a “Message of Faith” divinely deposited for us, but here I think even the good old audience relevance principle precludes us as direct recipients of those messages. So in the end, calling the Bible the “incarnational Word of God” is no more helpful than simply saying, as McManus puts its, that “the Bible exists because God encountered people…”

      I have the same trouble with I&I, that one needs to consider that special revelation of the words in the same way as if they were the traditional “inerrant” rather than a different “inerrant.”

      “What exactly do we lose if we consider the Bible to be exactly what it is, only human literature?”

      I can’t answer this question of course, but I know I need to consider the bible what it is, not what I want it to be. For me it is already lost, reading it in the fundamentalist way, so I’m ready to see what it becomes after that, whatever that is.

    • Ray

      Oh, I can engage one thing, I’m working through Enns and Sparks and regarding what you said here:

      “It is attractive to think that lurking behind most every passage is a “Message of Faith” divinely deposited for us, but here I think even the good old audience relevance principle precludes us as direct recipients of those messages. So in the end, calling the Bible the “incarnational Word of God” is no more helpful than simply saying, as McManus puts its, that “the Bible exists because God encountered people…”

      I have the same trouble with I&I, that one needs to consider that special revelation of the words in the same way as if they were the traditional “inerrant” rather than a different “inerrant.”

      “What exactly do we lose if we consider the Bible to be exactly what it is, only human literature?”

      I can’t answer this question of course, but I know I need to consider the bible what it is, not what I want it to be. For me it is already lost, reading it in the fundamentalist way, so I’m ready to see what it becomes after that, whatever that is.

    • Hi steve,

      So in the end, calling the Bible the “incarnational Word of God” is no more helpful than simply saying, as McManus puts its, that “the Bible exists because God encountered people

      I’m not sure I agree with this. It exists because of that and because God wanted to leave a record of that encounter and because God wanted a permanent Witness to the Word made flesh (Barth) and … probably a whole lot more. As I commented over on Alex’s post, why do we need to make the choice between human and divine for the bible? Even though it has limitations, I think Enn’s incarnational analogy is very helpful.

      steve martin´s last blog post..New Faith / Science Resources

    • Hi steve,

      So in the end, calling the Bible the “incarnational Word of God” is no more helpful than simply saying, as McManus puts its, that “the Bible exists because God encountered people

      I’m not sure I agree with this. It exists because of that and because God wanted to leave a record of that encounter and because God wanted a permanent Witness to the Word made flesh (Barth) and … probably a whole lot more. As I commented over on Alex’s post, why do we need to make the choice between human and divine for the bible? Even though it has limitations, I think Enn’s incarnational analogy is very helpful.

      steve martin´s last blog post..New Faith / Science Resources

    • @Kaffinator

      As you well know, Jesus was not holding forth on biology. He was making a point about faith.

      You didn’t answer my question. Did Jesus teach biological error in his parable?

      Our host insinuated that Jesus might have taught error while on earth. What do you think?

      Theological error? No. Scientific or historical error? Absolutely.

      A more interesting and relevant question, Mike, is do you believe this passage is a good example on Jesus’ thoughts about the importance and reliability of the Old Testament?

      It does reveal Jesus’ belief that the OT was important. (Insofar as the “reliability of the OT” goes, I don’t believe that the Jews thought of the OT in quite those terms. That term is much more appropriate in the post-Enlightenment era.) However, he did not say this to emphasize the importance or reliability of the OT; that was already assumed by the Jews with whom he was interacting. He said this, rather, to emphasize that the Mosaic Law was still in effect regardless of the new “spin” he was taking the Law, e.g., the “spirit of the law” vs. “letter of the law.” It had nothing to do with reassuring his disciples of the OT’s importance or reliability.

      How would you describe Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, given what we know from the gospels? Was it the word of God? Did He consider it authoritative and trustworthy?

      Yes, to both questions. He grew up in a culture and environment that treated the OT as such, so it would only be natural for him to as well. Likewise, if the Jews believed the earth to be flat and the cosmos made of three tiers, two of which do not exist in physical reality, I’d bet my lunch money that Jesus did too. So, how authoritative and trustworthy is the OT to you? Do you believe those things about our cosmos as well? How far are you willing to go?

      And what impact should His view on scripture have on our own, if we call ourselves His followers?

      We should take the OT seriously, but we should also recognize the limitations of the OT in revealing true things about our physical world. If you’d like me to take the OT seriously in ALL things, please direct me to the nearest chapter of the Flat Earth Society.

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • @Kaffinator

      As you well know, Jesus was not holding forth on biology. He was making a point about faith.

      You didn’t answer my question. Did Jesus teach biological error in his parable?

      Our host insinuated that Jesus might have taught error while on earth. What do you think?

      Theological error? No. Scientific or historical error? Absolutely.

      A more interesting and relevant question, Mike, is do you believe this passage is a good example on Jesus’ thoughts about the importance and reliability of the Old Testament?

      It does reveal Jesus’ belief that the OT was important. (Insofar as the “reliability of the OT” goes, I don’t believe that the Jews thought of the OT in quite those terms. That term is much more appropriate in the post-Enlightenment era.) However, he did not say this to emphasize the importance or reliability of the OT; that was already assumed by the Jews with whom he was interacting. He said this, rather, to emphasize that the Mosaic Law was still in effect regardless of the new “spin” he was taking the Law, e.g., the “spirit of the law” vs. “letter of the law.” It had nothing to do with reassuring his disciples of the OT’s importance or reliability.

      How would you describe Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, given what we know from the gospels? Was it the word of God? Did He consider it authoritative and trustworthy?

      Yes, to both questions. He grew up in a culture and environment that treated the OT as such, so it would only be natural for him to as well. Likewise, if the Jews believed the earth to be flat and the cosmos made of three tiers, two of which do not exist in physical reality, I’d bet my lunch money that Jesus did too. So, how authoritative and trustworthy is the OT to you? Do you believe those things about our cosmos as well? How far are you willing to go?

      And what impact should His view on scripture have on our own, if we call ourselves His followers?

      We should take the OT seriously, but we should also recognize the limitations of the OT in revealing true things about our physical world. If you’d like me to take the OT seriously in ALL things, please direct me to the nearest chapter of the Flat Earth Society.

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Mike,

      Did Jesus teach biological error in his parable?

      No, because he was not teaching biology. He was using an object lesson concerning a small seed and a large result make a point about faith. If you lay your focus on something different than what you are being taught, then you are bound to arrive at wrong conclusions. It’s a mistake YEC’s make all the time.

      Theological error? No. Scientific or historical error? Absolutely.

      If Jesus was wrong about historical claims or scientific claims then why would we have any reason to believe his theological claims?

      Insofar as the “reliability of the OT” goes, I don’t believe that the Jews thought of the OT in quite those terms. That term is much more appropriate in the post-Enlightenment era.

      You actually believe the idea of reliability or trustworthiness is a recent invention? I would like to see some evidence for that claim.

      It had nothing to do with reassuring his disciples of the OT’s importance or reliability.

      I think you are overstating. But if you wish, refer to other passages such as the ones I referenced. Or elsewhere such as the story of Abraham and Lazarus in Luke 16) in which the whole point of the parable seems to center on trusting scripture.

      Likewise, if the Jews believed the earth to be flat and the cosmos made of three tiers, two of which do not exist in physical reality, I’d bet my lunch money that Jesus did too.

      This is mere speculation. The important question is, did Jesus at any point teach the breadth of the cosmos or the shape of the earth? Did He or any Biblical writer bind the conscience of their hearers to such beliefs as you suggest? No.

      So, how authoritative and trustworthy is the OT to you?

      Absolutely.

      Do you believe those things about our cosmos as well?

      No.

      How far are you willing to go?

      As far as Jesus said to. Any less does not befit someone who calls himself a disciple.

      Look folks, you are of course free to think Jesus was wrong sometimes and right sometimes. But think this through. If, out of ignorance, He taught error he is not Lord of Creation. In fact he wouldn’t even rate as a minor prophet. He’s not worthy of faith. His followers after him were either just as deluded, or were charlatans outright. If this is your platform, why waste your precious time on any of Christianity’s claims?

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Mike,

      Did Jesus teach biological error in his parable?

      No, because he was not teaching biology. He was using an object lesson concerning a small seed and a large result make a point about faith. If you lay your focus on something different than what you are being taught, then you are bound to arrive at wrong conclusions. It’s a mistake YEC’s make all the time.

      Theological error? No. Scientific or historical error? Absolutely.

      If Jesus was wrong about historical claims or scientific claims then why would we have any reason to believe his theological claims?

      Insofar as the “reliability of the OT” goes, I don’t believe that the Jews thought of the OT in quite those terms. That term is much more appropriate in the post-Enlightenment era.

      You actually believe the idea of reliability or trustworthiness is a recent invention? I would like to see some evidence for that claim.

      It had nothing to do with reassuring his disciples of the OT’s importance or reliability.

      I think you are overstating. But if you wish, refer to other passages such as the ones I referenced. Or elsewhere such as the story of Abraham and Lazarus in Luke 16) in which the whole point of the parable seems to center on trusting scripture.

      Likewise, if the Jews believed the earth to be flat and the cosmos made of three tiers, two of which do not exist in physical reality, I’d bet my lunch money that Jesus did too.

      This is mere speculation. The important question is, did Jesus at any point teach the breadth of the cosmos or the shape of the earth? Did He or any Biblical writer bind the conscience of their hearers to such beliefs as you suggest? No.

      So, how authoritative and trustworthy is the OT to you?

      Absolutely.

      Do you believe those things about our cosmos as well?

      No.

      How far are you willing to go?

      As far as Jesus said to. Any less does not befit someone who calls himself a disciple.

      Look folks, you are of course free to think Jesus was wrong sometimes and right sometimes. But think this through. If, out of ignorance, He taught error he is not Lord of Creation. In fact he wouldn’t even rate as a minor prophet. He’s not worthy of faith. His followers after him were either just as deluded, or were charlatans outright. If this is your platform, why waste your precious time on any of Christianity’s claims?

    • Hola, Kaffinator!

      If you lay your focus on something different than what you are being taught, then you are bound to arrive at wrong conclusions. It’s a mistake YEC’s make all the time.

      You are absolutely correct! The fact that Jesus was perpetuating a scientific inaccuracy doesn’t matter! What mattered, as you wisely said, was the point of his teaching. Now, keep applying that hermeneutic to other portions of the OT (e.g., Genesis 1-11) and the NT (e.g., Matt 19:4-6 and Luke 16:19-31) where science and history disprove the incidental vessels in which Jesus’ theological teachings were contained, and you’ll begin to understand from where Steve and I are coming.

      If Jesus was wrong about historical claims or scientific claims then why would we have any reason to believe his theological claims?

      It’s definitely a leap of faith, isn’t it? But maybe not that much of a leap, for you and I both trust errant people and things every day in order to live our lives. If I wrote a history textbook in which one fact of thousands was incorrect, do I now have justification to throw out the entire publication? The reason I accept Jesus’ theological teachings as reliable is not because the Bible tells me to, but rather because I’ve met Jesus and have a personal relationship with him.

      [That Jesus saw the world in ancient, scientific categories] is mere speculation. … If, out of ignorance, He taught error he is not Lord of Creation.

      Speculation? Not really. It’s rather quite reasonable to believe that. Can you prove to me using Scripture that Jesus, though he was the Lord of Creation, exhibited the divine quality of omniscience?

      The important question is, did Jesus at any point teach the breadth of the cosmos or the shape of the earth? Did He or any Biblical writer bind the conscience of their hearers to such beliefs as you suggest? No.

      As for Jesus not teaching elements of a 3-tiered cosmos, he certainly did: Luke 16:19-31. But I emphasize again: it doesn’t matter that he did.

      If, out of ignorance, He taught error … he wouldn’t even rate as a minor prophet. He’s not worthy of faith. His followers after him were either just as deluded, or were charlatans outright. If this is your platform, why waste your precious time on any of Christianity’s claims?

      My platform is that my faith, since engaging in critical study of the Bible, is enriched and stronger that when I held to your hermeneutic. My faith bends like a reed in the wind. Since my confrontation with the facts of science and history, which will assuredly continue into the future, I’ve never been happier amidst the questions. That I have not descended into atheism is a testament to the firmness of my relationship with the Lord of Creation, Jesus Christ. To deny the hand of the Spirit in my life would be akin to denying the existence of my own wife and children. Take that to the bank.

      Why do you “believe,” Kaffinator? Do you really need a perfect, inerrant-in-all-aspects book to help you do this?

      In closing, to put the divine aspects of the Bible on too high of a pedestal gets awfully close to, if not embraces, docetism. We, as Christians, must be willing to use our God-given intellect to recognize the human and divine aspects of the Bible and accord to them the appropriate amount of respect, just as the Church did with the incarnation of the Word in the 4th century.

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • Hola, Kaffinator!

      If you lay your focus on something different than what you are being taught, then you are bound to arrive at wrong conclusions. It’s a mistake YEC’s make all the time.

      You are absolutely correct! The fact that Jesus was perpetuating a scientific inaccuracy doesn’t matter! What mattered, as you wisely said, was the point of his teaching. Now, keep applying that hermeneutic to other portions of the OT (e.g., Genesis 1-11) and the NT (e.g., Matt 19:4-6 and Luke 16:19-31) where science and history disprove the incidental vessels in which Jesus’ theological teachings were contained, and you’ll begin to understand from where Steve and I are coming.

      If Jesus was wrong about historical claims or scientific claims then why would we have any reason to believe his theological claims?

      It’s definitely a leap of faith, isn’t it? But maybe not that much of a leap, for you and I both trust errant people and things every day in order to live our lives. If I wrote a history textbook in which one fact of thousands was incorrect, do I now have justification to throw out the entire publication? The reason I accept Jesus’ theological teachings as reliable is not because the Bible tells me to, but rather because I’ve met Jesus and have a personal relationship with him.

      [That Jesus saw the world in ancient, scientific categories] is mere speculation. … If, out of ignorance, He taught error he is not Lord of Creation.

      Speculation? Not really. It’s rather quite reasonable to believe that. Can you prove to me using Scripture that Jesus, though he was the Lord of Creation, exhibited the divine quality of omniscience?

      The important question is, did Jesus at any point teach the breadth of the cosmos or the shape of the earth? Did He or any Biblical writer bind the conscience of their hearers to such beliefs as you suggest? No.

      As for Jesus not teaching elements of a 3-tiered cosmos, he certainly did: Luke 16:19-31. But I emphasize again: it doesn’t matter that he did.

      If, out of ignorance, He taught error … he wouldn’t even rate as a minor prophet. He’s not worthy of faith. His followers after him were either just as deluded, or were charlatans outright. If this is your platform, why waste your precious time on any of Christianity’s claims?

      My platform is that my faith, since engaging in critical study of the Bible, is enriched and stronger that when I held to your hermeneutic. My faith bends like a reed in the wind. Since my confrontation with the facts of science and history, which will assuredly continue into the future, I’ve never been happier amidst the questions. That I have not descended into atheism is a testament to the firmness of my relationship with the Lord of Creation, Jesus Christ. To deny the hand of the Spirit in my life would be akin to denying the existence of my own wife and children. Take that to the bank.

      Why do you “believe,” Kaffinator? Do you really need a perfect, inerrant-in-all-aspects book to help you do this?

      In closing, to put the divine aspects of the Bible on too high of a pedestal gets awfully close to, if not embraces, docetism. We, as Christians, must be willing to use our God-given intellect to recognize the human and divine aspects of the Bible and accord to them the appropriate amount of respect, just as the Church did with the incarnation of the Word in the 4th century.

      Mike Beidler´s last blog post..Inheriting the Hot Wind: Mind Control and Young-Earth Creationism

    • Stephen, timely post — as I just finished reading “Jesus, Interrupted”. I highly recommend it, but I also recommend you read the critical on-line reviews for balance as Ehrman seems to go out of his way to overstate his case. Regardless of his personal agenda, the information he presents is interesting and helpful.

    • Stephen, timely post — as I just finished reading “Jesus, Interrupted”. I highly recommend it, but I also recommend you read the critical on-line reviews for balance as Ehrman seems to go out of his way to overstate his case. Regardless of his personal agenda, the information he presents is interesting and helpful.

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Mike, let’s continue:

      You are absolutely correct! The fact that Jesus was perpetuating a scientific inaccuracy doesn’t matter!

      I strenuously object. If we read, say, Matthew 13:31-32 in-context and with a sensitivity to intent and literary device, it is clear that Jesus was not making a scientific claim about all seeds everywhere at all times. He was telling a simple parable about a sower. It is only when you impose your own foreign requirements upon the text that you are forced to conclude that Jesus “perpetuated inaccuracy”, when in fact He did nothing of the sort.

      Then, having imposed faulty requirements and drawn a faulty conclusion, you wish to impose this template upon the rest of scripture and even upon the character and nature of Jesus Christ Himself. And you wonder why someone would find that injurious to the faith?

      The reason I accept Jesus’ theological teachings as reliable is not because the Bible tells me to, but rather because I’ve met Jesus and have a personal relationship with him.

      I have met and had a personal relationship with many people. But that doesn’t require that I accept any of their theological claims as binding. In fact, if I meet someone who plays fast and loose with the facts in one area, I tend not to trust them in other areas. Why should it different for Jesus?

      Speculation? Not really. It’s rather quite reasonable to believe that [Jesus believed the world to be flat].

      Since we have no record of Jesus teaching that the world was flat, it is 100% speculation. Whether its a reasonable speculation depends on your assumptions, I suppose.

      Can you prove to me using Scripture that Jesus, though he was the Lord of Creation, exhibited the divine quality of omniscience?

      As I said above, I don’t need to prove anything of the sort. Omniscience is the quality of knowing absolutely everything that can be known. The question is whether Jesus asserted things that are true, which are not. If we were examining whether a third grade teacher taught accurately, her knowledge of calculus would be irrelevant to the question. But if we found that teacher actually propounding falsehood in one subject, it would be prudent to have concerns about her teaching on other subjects.

      As for Jesus not teaching elements of a 3-tiered cosmos, he certainly did: Luke 16:19-31.

      You conclude this because Jesus’s story mentions hell? Are you now going to tell me that Jesus was inaccurate about the existence of hell?

      My platform is that my faith, since engaging in critical study of the Bible, is enriched and stronger that when I held to your hermeneutic.

      If you came from a place of unreflective literalism without sensitivity to genre, intent, or context, then I totally agree that the change would be both liberating and exhilarating. But it is possible (indeed orthodox) to both believe scripture was revealed, and is the word of God, and yet has much of the kind of texture we associate with a human work as well.

      To deny the hand of the Spirit in my life would be akin to denying the existence of my own wife and children. Take that to the bank.

      I’m truly glad that you feel assured in your faith! Sadly, I cannot deposit your emotions to my bank. When we discourse we need to show our work and that is all I’m asking you to do. Specifically: if Jesus was culturally bound and therefore incorrect on subject X then what reason do we have to think he is timelessly accurate concerning subject Y?

      Why do you “believe,” Kaffinator? Do you really need a perfect, inerrant-in-all-aspects book to help you do this?

      I believe because God has provided trustworthy witness to the fact that Jesus is Messiah. Therefore to do anything but place my whole faith and trust in Christ Jesus would be an act of supreme foolishness. Without that trustworthy witness I would have no real reason to put my faith in Jesus over and above any other claimant to knowledge of divine mysteries.

      Yes, I have had what I would consider to be supernatural interactions with the living Christ, but I also know of people who honestly believe they were once abducted by aliens. I’m a fallible human being, prone to misinterpret spiritual things. This is why I need a divine teacher, who is Jesus, who continues to speaks to His people today through His word.

      In closing, to put the divine aspects of the Bible on too high of a pedestal gets awfully close to, if not embraces, docetism. We, as Christians, must be willing to use our God-given intellect to recognize the human and divine aspects of the Bible and accord to them the appropriate amount of respect, just as the Church did with the incarnation of the Word in the 4th century.

      Then let me close with this: to suggest that scripture is not revealed undermines the most important witness we have of who God is and what he said. We are left with no more than a book of antiquated and inaccurate musings, and a stack of whatever subjective experiences we have each managed to slap together. And that’s hardly a sufficient basis for the kind of sacrificial life of love and service which Jesus envisioned and now calls His people to embody.

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Mike, let’s continue:

      You are absolutely correct! The fact that Jesus was perpetuating a scientific inaccuracy doesn’t matter!

      I strenuously object. If we read, say, Matthew 13:31-32 in-context and with a sensitivity to intent and literary device, it is clear that Jesus was not making a scientific claim about all seeds everywhere at all times. He was telling a simple parable about a sower. It is only when you impose your own foreign requirements upon the text that you are forced to conclude that Jesus “perpetuated inaccuracy”, when in fact He did nothing of the sort.

      Then, having imposed faulty requirements and drawn a faulty conclusion, you wish to impose this template upon the rest of scripture and even upon the character and nature of Jesus Christ Himself. And you wonder why someone would find that injurious to the faith?

      The reason I accept Jesus’ theological teachings as reliable is not because the Bible tells me to, but rather because I’ve met Jesus and have a personal relationship with him.

      I have met and had a personal relationship with many people. But that doesn’t require that I accept any of their theological claims as binding. In fact, if I meet someone who plays fast and loose with the facts in one area, I tend not to trust them in other areas. Why should it different for Jesus?

      Speculation? Not really. It’s rather quite reasonable to believe that [Jesus believed the world to be flat].

      Since we have no record of Jesus teaching that the world was flat, it is 100% speculation. Whether its a reasonable speculation depends on your assumptions, I suppose.

      Can you prove to me using Scripture that Jesus, though he was the Lord of Creation, exhibited the divine quality of omniscience?

      As I said above, I don’t need to prove anything of the sort. Omniscience is the quality of knowing absolutely everything that can be known. The question is whether Jesus asserted things that are true, which are not. If we were examining whether a third grade teacher taught accurately, her knowledge of calculus would be irrelevant to the question. But if we found that teacher actually propounding falsehood in one subject, it would be prudent to have concerns about her teaching on other subjects.

      As for Jesus not teaching elements of a 3-tiered cosmos, he certainly did: Luke 16:19-31.

      You conclude this because Jesus’s story mentions hell? Are you now going to tell me that Jesus was inaccurate about the existence of hell?

      My platform is that my faith, since engaging in critical study of the Bible, is enriched and stronger that when I held to your hermeneutic.

      If you came from a place of unreflective literalism without sensitivity to genre, intent, or context, then I totally agree that the change would be both liberating and exhilarating. But it is possible (indeed orthodox) to both believe scripture was revealed, and is the word of God, and yet has much of the kind of texture we associate with a human work as well.

      To deny the hand of the Spirit in my life would be akin to denying the existence of my own wife and children. Take that to the bank.

      I’m truly glad that you feel assured in your faith! Sadly, I cannot deposit your emotions to my bank. When we discourse we need to show our work and that is all I’m asking you to do. Specifically: if Jesus was culturally bound and therefore incorrect on subject X then what reason do we have to think he is timelessly accurate concerning subject Y?

      Why do you “believe,” Kaffinator? Do you really need a perfect, inerrant-in-all-aspects book to help you do this?

      I believe because God has provided trustworthy witness to the fact that Jesus is Messiah. Therefore to do anything but place my whole faith and trust in Christ Jesus would be an act of supreme foolishness. Without that trustworthy witness I would have no real reason to put my faith in Jesus over and above any other claimant to knowledge of divine mysteries.

      Yes, I have had what I would consider to be supernatural interactions with the living Christ, but I also know of people who honestly believe they were once abducted by aliens. I’m a fallible human being, prone to misinterpret spiritual things. This is why I need a divine teacher, who is Jesus, who continues to speaks to His people today through His word.

      In closing, to put the divine aspects of the Bible on too high of a pedestal gets awfully close to, if not embraces, docetism. We, as Christians, must be willing to use our God-given intellect to recognize the human and divine aspects of the Bible and accord to them the appropriate amount of respect, just as the Church did with the incarnation of the Word in the 4th century.

      Then let me close with this: to suggest that scripture is not revealed undermines the most important witness we have of who God is and what he said. We are left with no more than a book of antiquated and inaccurate musings, and a stack of whatever subjective experiences we have each managed to slap together. And that’s hardly a sufficient basis for the kind of sacrificial life of love and service which Jesus envisioned and now calls His people to embody.

    • I have to say, Steve, the discussion is fascinating. You know I come down on your side – and I’ll refrain from joining in as I’d feel guilty of ganging up on Kaffinator here.

      However, I suspect you’re doing the subject injustice by quoting “What exactly do we lose if we consider the Bible to be exactly what it is, only human literature?”. We speak constantly of human literature being inspired by things – relationships, events, ideas. I see no problem in speaking of the Bible as human literature inspired by God in the same way.

      It does pose the question why the Bible at all, I admit. But I’m content to have that question raised.

      Damian´s last blog post..The authority of lenses

    • I have to say, Steve, the discussion is fascinating. You know I come down on your side – and I’ll refrain from joining in as I’d feel guilty of ganging up on Kaffinator here.

      However, I suspect you’re doing the subject injustice by quoting “What exactly do we lose if we consider the Bible to be exactly what it is, only human literature?”. We speak constantly of human literature being inspired by things – relationships, events, ideas. I see no problem in speaking of the Bible as human literature inspired by God in the same way.

      It does pose the question why the Bible at all, I admit. But I’m content to have that question raised.

      Damian´s last blog post..The authority of lenses

    • Doug Moody

      Hi Steve,

      I don’t intend to defend the bible, one way or the other. I just want to point out that in the discussions above, there is a logical fallacy in the way some of the comments are going, including yours…

      Basically, IF you are arguing that sripture is “merely” human literature, and then you use scripture to prove spiritual concepts, you are creating an unwinnable argument for both sides. You cannot maintain that the bible is not inerrant, and then argue your point with someone who believes the bible to be inerrant by using scripture to make your point. That would be almost hypocritical on your part (because you don’t believe it is inerrant) and it would be useless on your antagonist’s part because any point he made using the bible would be (in your words) merely human literature. Therefore you are using evidence based on your own logical rules, and the other side is using different rules.
      That approach will NEVER come to a suitable conclusion that will be satisfying for either party.
      Might I call the two approaches (a) faith and (b)human reason? They must be mutually exclusive. They cannot coexist.
      That said, I am NOT saying that faith is blind to reason. As a matter of fact, faith must be BASED upon reason. Yet, faith cannot be conquered BY reason.

      In the end, from His sons, does God desire faith, or does He desire reason?

      The answer to that question will determine how you see scripture!

    • Doug Moody

      Hi Steve,

      I don’t intend to defend the bible, one way or the other. I just want to point out that in the discussions above, there is a logical fallacy in the way some of the comments are going, including yours…

      Basically, IF you are arguing that sripture is “merely” human literature, and then you use scripture to prove spiritual concepts, you are creating an unwinnable argument for both sides. You cannot maintain that the bible is not inerrant, and then argue your point with someone who believes the bible to be inerrant by using scripture to make your point. That would be almost hypocritical on your part (because you don’t believe it is inerrant) and it would be useless on your antagonist’s part because any point he made using the bible would be (in your words) merely human literature. Therefore you are using evidence based on your own logical rules, and the other side is using different rules.
      That approach will NEVER come to a suitable conclusion that will be satisfying for either party.
      Might I call the two approaches (a) faith and (b)human reason? They must be mutually exclusive. They cannot coexist.
      That said, I am NOT saying that faith is blind to reason. As a matter of fact, faith must be BASED upon reason. Yet, faith cannot be conquered BY reason.

      In the end, from His sons, does God desire faith, or does He desire reason?

      The answer to that question will determine how you see scripture!

    • Wow, guys — this thread really took off on me. I have been rather busy with some things, and so uncharacteristically negligent in my responses. There’s too much material for me to do my usual line by line reply, but here’s some thoughts…

      Vance,
      Always gratified to hear your thoughts. You make some good points about inconsistency. I suppose Kaffinator is saying that the Psalmist may have been wrong, as long as Jesus himself was not wrong. But what I want to get back to is whether Scripture is an accurate record of everything Jesus even thought.

      I am certainly frustrated by seeing all the fancy footwork done by theologians to deny what are sometimes surely just examples of disagreement between the writers (Paul and James comes to mind). I’ve become extremely turned off by systematic theology as practiced by inerrantists; the whole purpose of the discipline of systematic theology seems to erase difficulties and reconcile the irreconcilable, something I’m not interested in. My thoughts as expressed in this post are closely related to this recent disgust.

      Ray,
      I would like to read the book by Sparks as soon as possible. I’ve read summaries and reviews of Enns enough to know that I’m not likely to gain much from it, but perhaps I’m wrong. Actually, I quite appreciated Enns’s review of Sparks, in which he seemed to say that he himself had not gone as far as Sparks. But if it boils down to doing what you said, starting off with a presupp that the Bible is what evangelicals want/think it needs it to be, I’m not interested. If, as I do believe, God intended for us to have the Bible, I want to understand the gift as it actually is and not by what theology imperfectly manufactured from its contents tells me it is.

      Steve and Damian,
      I find myself agreeing with both of you for the most part. I’m not trying to remove “divine” from the Bible altogether. 1) God intended for us to have it, and 2) it contains reflections on the divine by people privileged enough to encounter it firsthand (including some real, honest-to-gosh special revelation). So inasmuch as that quote about “only human” and “not divine” contradicts that, I’ll back off on it.

      However, my perspective is currently that we should view the creation of the Bible very much like evolution. When we interpret the Bible, I don’t expect God to have tidied it all up for us, tipped the scales here and there, sanitized this or that part, intervened to make sure this (and not that) part was put down correctly, etc. This strikes me very much like the type of creation envisaged by Intelligent Design proponents. I think we should view the Bible on its own terms as human literature and expect that what we see in it was nothing more or less than happened in a natural process.

      Gordon,
      Thanks for the recommendation. It’s a good idea not just to listen to people we agree with, but it often takes some guts.

      Kaffinator and Mike,
      Thanks for continuing the interaction in a respectful and interesting way. I’m seeing where you’re coming from, Kaff, but in the end it seems like you’re saying something very much like what Lewis warned about, “God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this.” One thing you still seem to be missing is a central idea in my post: Jesus could have been wholly and completely aware of everything, but that doesn’t guarantee how well his thoughts/knowledge was represented in the Bible; the Bible, and not the competence of Jesus’ theology, was my main point.

      Doug,
      I think I know what you’re getting at. A lot of what you see as Mike and I defending our view by citing Scripture is because we’re arguing a point I’m trying to get him to see. The idea he’s missing is that even if Jesus was never wrong about anything, it doesn’t mean that Scripture accurately reflects this. So our approach was, “Even under the assumption of the perfect accuracy of Scripture regarding Jesus, it appears he wasn’t omniscient,” which knocks off some of the luster of insisting upon Scripture’s accuracy in recording Jesus’ belief. I don’t remember using Scripture “to prove spiritual concepts”. As you noted, “proving” would be hard to do with a human Bible (much to the consternation of sectarian defenders of complex theological positions). The best we can do is, as Lewis said, “receive [the word of God] from [the Bible] not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone and temper and so learning its overall message.”

    • Wow, guys — this thread really took off on me. I have been rather busy with some things, and so uncharacteristically negligent in my responses. There’s too much material for me to do my usual line by line reply, but here’s some thoughts…

      Vance,
      Always gratified to hear your thoughts. You make some good points about inconsistency. I suppose Kaffinator is saying that the Psalmist may have been wrong, as long as Jesus himself was not wrong. But what I want to get back to is whether Scripture is an accurate record of everything Jesus even thought.

      I am certainly frustrated by seeing all the fancy footwork done by theologians to deny what are sometimes surely just examples of disagreement between the writers (Paul and James comes to mind). I’ve become extremely turned off by systematic theology as practiced by inerrantists; the whole purpose of the discipline of systematic theology seems to erase difficulties and reconcile the irreconcilable, something I’m not interested in. My thoughts as expressed in this post are closely related to this recent disgust.

      Ray,
      I would like to read the book by Sparks as soon as possible. I’ve read summaries and reviews of Enns enough to know that I’m not likely to gain much from it, but perhaps I’m wrong. Actually, I quite appreciated Enns’s review of Sparks, in which he seemed to say that he himself had not gone as far as Sparks. But if it boils down to doing what you said, starting off with a presupp that the Bible is what evangelicals want/think it needs it to be, I’m not interested. If, as I do believe, God intended for us to have the Bible, I want to understand the gift as it actually is and not by what theology imperfectly manufactured from its contents tells me it is.

      Steve and Damian,
      I find myself agreeing with both of you for the most part. I’m not trying to remove “divine” from the Bible altogether. 1) God intended for us to have it, and 2) it contains reflections on the divine by people privileged enough to encounter it firsthand (including some real, honest-to-gosh special revelation). So inasmuch as that quote about “only human” and “not divine” contradicts that, I’ll back off on it.

      However, my perspective is currently that we should view the creation of the Bible very much like evolution. When we interpret the Bible, I don’t expect God to have tidied it all up for us, tipped the scales here and there, sanitized this or that part, intervened to make sure this (and not that) part was put down correctly, etc. This strikes me very much like the type of creation envisaged by Intelligent Design proponents. I think we should view the Bible on its own terms as human literature and expect that what we see in it was nothing more or less than happened in a natural process.

      Gordon,
      Thanks for the recommendation. It’s a good idea not just to listen to people we agree with, but it often takes some guts.

      Kaffinator and Mike,
      Thanks for continuing the interaction in a respectful and interesting way. I’m seeing where you’re coming from, Kaff, but in the end it seems like you’re saying something very much like what Lewis warned about, “God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this.” One thing you still seem to be missing is a central idea in my post: Jesus could have been wholly and completely aware of everything, but that doesn’t guarantee how well his thoughts/knowledge was represented in the Bible; the Bible, and not the competence of Jesus’ theology, was my main point.

      Doug,
      I think I know what you’re getting at. A lot of what you see as Mike and I defending our view by citing Scripture is because we’re arguing a point I’m trying to get him to see. The idea he’s missing is that even if Jesus was never wrong about anything, it doesn’t mean that Scripture accurately reflects this. So our approach was, “Even under the assumption of the perfect accuracy of Scripture regarding Jesus, it appears he wasn’t omniscient,” which knocks off some of the luster of insisting upon Scripture’s accuracy in recording Jesus’ belief. I don’t remember using Scripture “to prove spiritual concepts”. As you noted, “proving” would be hard to do with a human Bible (much to the consternation of sectarian defenders of complex theological positions). The best we can do is, as Lewis said, “receive [the word of God] from [the Bible] not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone and temper and so learning its overall message.”

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for continuing the interaction in a respectful and interesting way.

      Happy to oblige. I have enjoyed the discussion and the tone.

      I’m seeing where you’re coming from, Kaff, but in the end it seems like you’re saying something very much like what Lewis warned about, “God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this.”

      I appreciate the concern, but I haven’t really been arguing from that direction. I’ve only been saying, if Jesus taught X, then I should believe it. Specifically, if Jesus teaches a high view of scripture then I must embrace it. He did and I must.

      One thing you still seem to be missing is a central idea in my post: Jesus could have been wholly and completely aware of everything, but that doesn’t guarantee how well his thoughts/knowledge was represented in the Bible; the Bible, and not the competence of Jesus’ theology, was my main point.

      OK, but let the record show that I was not the one who brought the notion of a fallible Jesus into view!

      To your original point though. Suppose we admit that the Bible may not have perfectly captured Jesus’ teachings. Is there still enough of a general trend or pattern that shows what Jesus taught about word of God as revealed in “the law and the prophets”? I think there is. In the gospels, Jesus is pictured as constantly quoting it, explaining it, using it as a basis for point-by-point argument, claiming it could not be compromised, demanding obedience to it, and so forth.

      I’d go so far as to say that if Jesus actually taught a low view of scripture (or did not teach on scripture at all), the gospels have so mangled their witness that that few other of His teachings could be presumed to have survived in useful form.

      So I think if you want to push for victory on this point, it’s going to be a pyrrhic one.

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for continuing the interaction in a respectful and interesting way.

      Happy to oblige. I have enjoyed the discussion and the tone.

      I’m seeing where you’re coming from, Kaff, but in the end it seems like you’re saying something very much like what Lewis warned about, “God must have done what is best, this is best, therefore God has done this.”

      I appreciate the concern, but I haven’t really been arguing from that direction. I’ve only been saying, if Jesus taught X, then I should believe it. Specifically, if Jesus teaches a high view of scripture then I must embrace it. He did and I must.

      One thing you still seem to be missing is a central idea in my post: Jesus could have been wholly and completely aware of everything, but that doesn’t guarantee how well his thoughts/knowledge was represented in the Bible; the Bible, and not the competence of Jesus’ theology, was my main point.

      OK, but let the record show that I was not the one who brought the notion of a fallible Jesus into view!

      To your original point though. Suppose we admit that the Bible may not have perfectly captured Jesus’ teachings. Is there still enough of a general trend or pattern that shows what Jesus taught about word of God as revealed in “the law and the prophets”? I think there is. In the gospels, Jesus is pictured as constantly quoting it, explaining it, using it as a basis for point-by-point argument, claiming it could not be compromised, demanding obedience to it, and so forth.

      I’d go so far as to say that if Jesus actually taught a low view of scripture (or did not teach on scripture at all), the gospels have so mangled their witness that that few other of His teachings could be presumed to have survived in useful form.

      So I think if you want to push for victory on this point, it’s going to be a pyrrhic one.

    • Doug Moody

      Steve,

      Just one thought… If you DO finally conclude that the bible is “just human literature”, then please tell me what you will use as your source of information about God? Can you say, with all sincerity, that you will “Listen to the Spirit”? or, perhaps, you will just “follow your heart”?

      I am seriously asking, because going down the path you are proposing is a disaster in the making. You (or I or anyone) would be completely without guidance about things that are vital in our relationship with God if we decide the bible is not to be trusted because it is “human” in its origin.

      If you propose that you ARE on your own, then would there be any rule of law in your life at all if you are free to pick and choose what you want to believe and what you don’t?

    • Doug Moody

      Steve,

      Just one thought… If you DO finally conclude that the bible is “just human literature”, then please tell me what you will use as your source of information about God? Can you say, with all sincerity, that you will “Listen to the Spirit”? or, perhaps, you will just “follow your heart”?

      I am seriously asking, because going down the path you are proposing is a disaster in the making. You (or I or anyone) would be completely without guidance about things that are vital in our relationship with God if we decide the bible is not to be trusted because it is “human” in its origin.

      If you propose that you ARE on your own, then would there be any rule of law in your life at all if you are free to pick and choose what you want to believe and what you don’t?

    • Hi Doug,
      Regarding your comment: “You (or I or anyone) would be completely without guidance about things that are vital in our relationship with God if we decide the bible is not to be trusted because it is “human” in its origin.”

      Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses before the tablets didn’t have any scripture (that we are told about anyway).

      So how did every godly person before Mount Sinai get Godly guidance?

      — Vance

      VanceH-´s last blog post..The Point

    • Hi Doug,
      Regarding your comment: “You (or I or anyone) would be completely without guidance about things that are vital in our relationship with God if we decide the bible is not to be trusted because it is “human” in its origin.”

      Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses before the tablets didn’t have any scripture (that we are told about anyway).

      So how did every godly person before Mount Sinai get Godly guidance?

      — Vance

      VanceH-´s last blog post..The Point

    • Kaffinator,

      OK, but let the record show that I was not the one who brought the notion of a fallible Jesus into view!

      Certainly. But you were the first to bring up the subject of an infallible Jesus, and thereby goaded me into it! 😛 I do think a case for a less-than-divine Scripture can be made without arguing that.

      I’d go so far as to say that if Jesus actually taught a low view of scripture (or did not teach on scripture at all), the gospels have so mangled their witness that that few other of His teachings could be presumed to have survived in useful form.

      Surely you’re overstating your case here. You’ve pointed out two or three instances in which Jesus seemed to refer to the Tanakh as authoritative; this would hardly “mangle” the hundreds and hundreds of verses in which he somehow managed to avoid talking about it. And I still maintain that some of what appears to be his acceptance of their idolatry of the Law was to show how they couldn’t avoid violating it.

      Doug,
      Appreciate your concern. But Vance makes an excellent point about pre-Law believers. We are wont to say, “Poor guys; God corrected their problem by revealing the Bible.” But importantly, how was the idealized New Covenant conceived in Jeremiah 31.33-34? Remember: this was what the author of Hebrews said was fulfilled with the post-Law state of affairs instituted by the work of Christ (8.10): the Law of God would no longer be text-bound, but would effectively revert to the pre-Mosaic times, in which the Law of God was written on the heart. What say you?

    • Kaffinator,

      OK, but let the record show that I was not the one who brought the notion of a fallible Jesus into view!

      Certainly. But you were the first to bring up the subject of an infallible Jesus, and thereby goaded me into it! 😛 I do think a case for a less-than-divine Scripture can be made without arguing that.

      I’d go so far as to say that if Jesus actually taught a low view of scripture (or did not teach on scripture at all), the gospels have so mangled their witness that that few other of His teachings could be presumed to have survived in useful form.

      Surely you’re overstating your case here. You’ve pointed out two or three instances in which Jesus seemed to refer to the Tanakh as authoritative; this would hardly “mangle” the hundreds and hundreds of verses in which he somehow managed to avoid talking about it. And I still maintain that some of what appears to be his acceptance of their idolatry of the Law was to show how they couldn’t avoid violating it.

      Doug,
      Appreciate your concern. But Vance makes an excellent point about pre-Law believers. We are wont to say, “Poor guys; God corrected their problem by revealing the Bible.” But importantly, how was the idealized New Covenant conceived in Jeremiah 31.33-34? Remember: this was what the author of Hebrews said was fulfilled with the post-Law state of affairs instituted by the work of Christ (8.10): the Law of God would no longer be text-bound, but would effectively revert to the pre-Mosaic times, in which the Law of God was written on the heart. What say you?

    • Doug Moody

      What say I?

      A fewthings.

      All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” says Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16

      Later on, Peter equated Paul’s writings with “scripture”, when he said “He speaks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in them are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.

      Acts 26. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

      1Corinithians 2.2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

      It is abundantly clear that we are debating two things here. The first would be the “validity” of the written word, and the second is the “leading of the Spirit”

      It isn’t possible for me to judge another man’s servant, nor would I try. That is why I can’t comment particularly on the issue of whether someone is truly led of the Spirit. Jesus spoke to the DISCIPLES (remember context) when He told them that the HS would come to them. Jesus even breathed His spirit upon them, and as near as I can tell, the WRITTEN WORD tells me that I too have the Spirit as part of the conversion experience.

      What then can I hinge my salvation upon? On some kind of an “experience” in which I might claim that God spoke directly to me, or the rule of law as codified in scripture?

      If I treat scripture as human literature (even if it is perhaps reflecting the Divine), then I have to ask upon what basis I am assured of my salvation? After all, if you don’t have complete confidence that what is said in scripture is correct in all points, then how in the world would you even preach the gospel? Would you take someone who is ignorant of Christ and tell him “Just ask Jesus into your heart, and everything will be fine”? OR, instead, would you point him to scriptures which answer his questions? Would you then tell that person “Oh, BTW, those scriptures are just human literature, so you can toss them when you feel like it, and disregard those portions the Holy Spirit tells you aren’t exactly right”

      My bottom line here is that scripture IS scripture, and cannot be debated as to its validity and authority in all points. Yet, I am also convinced that the Holy Spirit is a real and influential part of our relationship with the Father, and it indeed DOES instruct and teach.

      So does it really have to be either or, or cannot it be BOTH? As far as the patriarchs are concerned, do you not think they would have LOVED to have been informed about the things of God in writing, if they had been available to them? Just because they were not (presumably) available does not mean they have no place in a Spirit led believer’s life today!

    • Doug Moody

      What say I?

      A fewthings.

      All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” says Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16

      Later on, Peter equated Paul’s writings with “scripture”, when he said “He speaks about this subject in all his letters. Some things in them are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, leading to their own destruction, as they do the rest of the Scriptures.

      Acts 26. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you;

      1Corinithians 2.2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

      It is abundantly clear that we are debating two things here. The first would be the “validity” of the written word, and the second is the “leading of the Spirit”

      It isn’t possible for me to judge another man’s servant, nor would I try. That is why I can’t comment particularly on the issue of whether someone is truly led of the Spirit. Jesus spoke to the DISCIPLES (remember context) when He told them that the HS would come to them. Jesus even breathed His spirit upon them, and as near as I can tell, the WRITTEN WORD tells me that I too have the Spirit as part of the conversion experience.

      What then can I hinge my salvation upon? On some kind of an “experience” in which I might claim that God spoke directly to me, or the rule of law as codified in scripture?

      If I treat scripture as human literature (even if it is perhaps reflecting the Divine), then I have to ask upon what basis I am assured of my salvation? After all, if you don’t have complete confidence that what is said in scripture is correct in all points, then how in the world would you even preach the gospel? Would you take someone who is ignorant of Christ and tell him “Just ask Jesus into your heart, and everything will be fine”? OR, instead, would you point him to scriptures which answer his questions? Would you then tell that person “Oh, BTW, those scriptures are just human literature, so you can toss them when you feel like it, and disregard those portions the Holy Spirit tells you aren’t exactly right”

      My bottom line here is that scripture IS scripture, and cannot be debated as to its validity and authority in all points. Yet, I am also convinced that the Holy Spirit is a real and influential part of our relationship with the Father, and it indeed DOES instruct and teach.

      So does it really have to be either or, or cannot it be BOTH? As far as the patriarchs are concerned, do you not think they would have LOVED to have been informed about the things of God in writing, if they had been available to them? Just because they were not (presumably) available does not mean they have no place in a Spirit led believer’s life today!

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Steve,

      Surely you’re overstating your case here. You’ve pointed out two or three instances in which Jesus seemed to refer to the Tanakh as authoritative; this would hardly “mangle” the hundreds and hundreds of verses in which he somehow managed to avoid talking about it. And I still maintain that some of what appears to be his acceptance of their idolatry of the Law was to show how they couldn’t avoid violating it.

      If John 10:34-35 was my only proof-text then you might have something to go on. Unfortunately for your case, His statement about Scripture’s ultimate reliability and authority is typical of His teachings and example throughout the gospels.

      Take the gospel of Matthew alone. In it, you will find dozens upon dozens of cases where Jesus quotes the Old Testament as the deciding point of an argument (Matthew 4:1-11, 19:18-19, 22:32, etc.), berates those who fail to understand it or apply its words (9:13, 15:1-6, 21:42, 22:29, etc.), holds it out as an unfailing prophetic guide to the events happening to and around Him (10:35, 11:5, 11:10, 12:40, 13:14 and many more). Jesus uses OT scripture to defend His very identity (22:44) and even quotes from it in his final breaths (27:46).

      If Jesus believed or taught that the words of the Old Testament were merely “human literature”, and not divinely inspired, not there’s not a scent of it that I can find in the gospels. And there is so very much to contradict this thesis that I don’t see how you could also hold the NT as being reliable enough to preserve practically anything else He actually said or did.

      Let me ask you a question, Steve. If it were completely undeniable that Jesus taught that the Old Testament was to be considered God’s Word, would that change your perspective? Why or why not?

    • Kaffinator

      Hi Steve,

      Surely you’re overstating your case here. You’ve pointed out two or three instances in which Jesus seemed to refer to the Tanakh as authoritative; this would hardly “mangle” the hundreds and hundreds of verses in which he somehow managed to avoid talking about it. And I still maintain that some of what appears to be his acceptance of their idolatry of the Law was to show how they couldn’t avoid violating it.

      If John 10:34-35 was my only proof-text then you might have something to go on. Unfortunately for your case, His statement about Scripture’s ultimate reliability and authority is typical of His teachings and example throughout the gospels.

      Take the gospel of Matthew alone. In it, you will find dozens upon dozens of cases where Jesus quotes the Old Testament as the deciding point of an argument (Matthew 4:1-11, 19:18-19, 22:32, etc.), berates those who fail to understand it or apply its words (9:13, 15:1-6, 21:42, 22:29, etc.), holds it out as an unfailing prophetic guide to the events happening to and around Him (10:35, 11:5, 11:10, 12:40, 13:14 and many more). Jesus uses OT scripture to defend His very identity (22:44) and even quotes from it in his final breaths (27:46).

      If Jesus believed or taught that the words of the Old Testament were merely “human literature”, and not divinely inspired, not there’s not a scent of it that I can find in the gospels. And there is so very much to contradict this thesis that I don’t see how you could also hold the NT as being reliable enough to preserve practically anything else He actually said or did.

      Let me ask you a question, Steve. If it were completely undeniable that Jesus taught that the Old Testament was to be considered God’s Word, would that change your perspective? Why or why not?

    • Doug,

      What then can I hinge my salvation upon? On some kind of an “experience” in which I might claim that God spoke directly to me, or the rule of law as codified in scripture?

      What do you hinge your salvation on right now? Is it not essentially blind trust that the Bible is giving you the exact, pure, unadulterated story? Faith that is susceptible to being lost when parts of the biblical record are called into question is faith in the Bible, not in God. I put my faith in the Jesus testified to in the Bible. Do I know for sure that he said everything attributed to him? No. But by faith I trust that the biblical record as written down by the eyewitnesses is more or less indicative of the nature and teaching of the man named Jesus of Nazareth. Might I be wrong? Certainly. But so might the typical evangelical, living his life believing whatever Dobson, Piper, Swindoll, or anyone else tells him to. We both agree that we should model Jesus; the biggest difference is that your logic seems to imply that I should stop trusting in the person of Jesus just because the Bible was not published in heaven itself.

      Jesus, James, and John all said quite explicitly that by our fruits we would be known as belonging to God. None of the NT writers said, “By the assurance of the NT canon.” If Jesus existed, did the things we believe he did, and taught the things we believed he taught, we should be worrying less about our “salvation” and more about doing what he wants us to do, which is clear enough from the record (barring the fantastic notion that the Gospels are an intentional fabrication and not at all representative of the man named Jesus, something even the vast majority of secular scholars deny). Even supposing Scripture to be the authoritative expression of divine revelation, I think you’ll find that, on the whole, it teaches that being led by the Holy Spirit, serving and worshiping God, belonging to Him, etc. are tied up in what we do, how we act, how well we model the life of Jesus. If we are living by faith, the details don’t matter near as much as the take-away, which is how we live. I can’t think of how my life would really change whether the Bible is a human witness to divine events or an inerrant, infallible divine revelation. Can you?

    • Doug,

      What then can I hinge my salvation upon? On some kind of an “experience” in which I might claim that God spoke directly to me, or the rule of law as codified in scripture?

      What do you hinge your salvation on right now? Is it not essentially blind trust that the Bible is giving you the exact, pure, unadulterated story? Faith that is susceptible to being lost when parts of the biblical record are called into question is faith in the Bible, not in God. I put my faith in the Jesus testified to in the Bible. Do I know for sure that he said everything attributed to him? No. But by faith I trust that the biblical record as written down by the eyewitnesses is more or less indicative of the nature and teaching of the man named Jesus of Nazareth. Might I be wrong? Certainly. But so might the typical evangelical, living his life believing whatever Dobson, Piper, Swindoll, or anyone else tells him to. We both agree that we should model Jesus; the biggest difference is that your logic seems to imply that I should stop trusting in the person of Jesus just because the Bible was not published in heaven itself.

      Jesus, James, and John all said quite explicitly that by our fruits we would be known as belonging to God. None of the NT writers said, “By the assurance of the NT canon.” If Jesus existed, did the things we believe he did, and taught the things we believed he taught, we should be worrying less about our “salvation” and more about doing what he wants us to do, which is clear enough from the record (barring the fantastic notion that the Gospels are an intentional fabrication and not at all representative of the man named Jesus, something even the vast majority of secular scholars deny). Even supposing Scripture to be the authoritative expression of divine revelation, I think you’ll find that, on the whole, it teaches that being led by the Holy Spirit, serving and worshiping God, belonging to Him, etc. are tied up in what we do, how we act, how well we model the life of Jesus. If we are living by faith, the details don’t matter near as much as the take-away, which is how we live. I can’t think of how my life would really change whether the Bible is a human witness to divine events or an inerrant, infallible divine revelation. Can you?

    • Kaffinator,

      Unfortunately for your case, His statement about Scripture’s ultimate reliability and authority is typical of His teachings and example throughout the gospels.

      Not so, not at all. The authority of Scripture is certainly taken as a given, since the religion of Judaism is based strictly on adherence to the Tanakh. Paul argued from within the supposition that the Mars Hill “UNKNOWN GOD” was a belief theologically compatible with Christianity, which by extending your logic would imply the “authority” of the rest of the pantheon. Your examples of Jesus using Scripture to settle arguments isn’t what I said you didn’t present: my point was that you didn’t present many examples of Jesus stating that the OT was pure and wholly accurate, still less wholly divine in nature and not human. Sure, Jesus spoke to Jewish leaders about the Jewish Scriptures, used the Jewish Scriptures as the deciding point of arguments, etc. But oddly enough, Jesus himself wasn’t particularly interested in upholding the open-and-shut, timeless authority of the OT: “You have heard it said…but I say…” This despite Psalm 119:160, which says that “every ordinance lasts forever” — when was the last time you sacrificed a lamb, Kaff?

      Moreover, I am noticing something about your questions that I want to correct. It is in regard to whether I consider the Bible “authoritative”. I do not want to give the impression that I deny the Bible as “the bible” of Christianity. It is the firsthand go-to-source chronicling salvation history. As a Christian, I affirm this. What I don’t affirm is the notion that in order for it to be useful and in some sense authoritative, that it has to be considered the ipsissima verba of God as a whole, integrated canon. Is it not enough that it testifies to revelation by firsthand account?

      If Jesus believed or taught that the words of the Old Testament were merely “human literature”, and not divinely inspired, not there’s not a scent of it that I can find in the gospels.

      Whoa – maybe I’ve overstated my case or something, but I’ve not denied the inspiration of Scripture. In fact, I’ve affirmed outright revelation within Scripture. My phrase (actually, Alex McManus’s phrase) “only human literature” was meant more as a way of saying that the truths of God that are to be found in the Bible are wholly encased within human literature; that although it contains and testifies to revelation, that it is not itself the revelation. This is not an insignificant difference.

      If it were completely undeniable that Jesus taught that the Old Testament was to be considered God’s Word, would that change your perspective? Why or why not?

      I know you’re trying to get down to brass tacks here, and I’m sincerely not trying to obfuscate things, but your question as posed contains one huge, whopping presupposition that we may not share: what do you mean by “God’s Word”? Cutting to the chase a bit, if by that you mean what the fundamentalists think of as “God’s Word”, my answer is a resounding “no”. I honestly can’t fathom that God expects us to just accept that the sky is a dome, that the sun, moon, and stars pass through it, that the universe is only 6,000 years old, that Asa both did and did not remove the high places (1Ki 15.14; 2Chr 4.2-3), that the Law is perfect when it allows you to beat your slave to death as long as it takes him a day or two to finally expire (Lev 21.20-21), etc. What’s perfect about that? Presumably, Jesus was aware of some of these problems, but he still talked about it being authoritative for the Jewish religion, while clearly maintaining that it would be so only until he himself fulfilled it. And not only that, the early Christians (specifically the Johannine community) took that to mean that he replaced the allegedly “eternal”, “perfect”, “authoritative” OT with a new, better Word of God: himself. If Jesus believed the standard fundie/evangelical position on what the Bible is, I could not agree with him; I’d chalk it up to his humanity. But I consider this to be an unlikely position anyway: if Jesus did hear from God and did believe that the Tanakh was not eternal but could be fulfilled/superseded and that the religion it governed could pass away (in contradiction to many statements in the OT), then he already sounds a lot more like my position than the soft inerrantist’s anyway.

    • Kaffinator,

      Unfortunately for your case, His statement about Scripture’s ultimate reliability and authority is typical of His teachings and example throughout the gospels.

      Not so, not at all. The authority of Scripture is certainly taken as a given, since the religion of Judaism is based strictly on adherence to the Tanakh. Paul argued from within the supposition that the Mars Hill “UNKNOWN GOD” was a belief theologically compatible with Christianity, which by extending your logic would imply the “authority” of the rest of the pantheon. Your examples of Jesus using Scripture to settle arguments isn’t what I said you didn’t present: my point was that you didn’t present many examples of Jesus stating that the OT was pure and wholly accurate, still less wholly divine in nature and not human. Sure, Jesus spoke to Jewish leaders about the Jewish Scriptures, used the Jewish Scriptures as the deciding point of arguments, etc. But oddly enough, Jesus himself wasn’t particularly interested in upholding the open-and-shut, timeless authority of the OT: “You have heard it said…but I say…” This despite Psalm 119:160, which says that “every ordinance lasts forever” — when was the last time you sacrificed a lamb, Kaff?

      Moreover, I am noticing something about your questions that I want to correct. It is in regard to whether I consider the Bible “authoritative”. I do not want to give the impression that I deny the Bible as “the bible” of Christianity. It is the firsthand go-to-source chronicling salvation history. As a Christian, I affirm this. What I don’t affirm is the notion that in order for it to be useful and in some sense authoritative, that it has to be considered the ipsissima verba of God as a whole, integrated canon. Is it not enough that it testifies to revelation by firsthand account?

      If Jesus believed or taught that the words of the Old Testament were merely “human literature”, and not divinely inspired, not there’s not a scent of it that I can find in the gospels.

      Whoa – maybe I’ve overstated my case or something, but I’ve not denied the inspiration of Scripture. In fact, I’ve affirmed outright revelation within Scripture. My phrase (actually, Alex McManus’s phrase) “only human literature” was meant more as a way of saying that the truths of God that are to be found in the Bible are wholly encased within human literature; that although it contains and testifies to revelation, that it is not itself the revelation. This is not an insignificant difference.

      If it were completely undeniable that Jesus taught that the Old Testament was to be considered God’s Word, would that change your perspective? Why or why not?

      I know you’re trying to get down to brass tacks here, and I’m sincerely not trying to obfuscate things, but your question as posed contains one huge, whopping presupposition that we may not share: what do you mean by “God’s Word”? Cutting to the chase a bit, if by that you mean what the fundamentalists think of as “God’s Word”, my answer is a resounding “no”. I honestly can’t fathom that God expects us to just accept that the sky is a dome, that the sun, moon, and stars pass through it, that the universe is only 6,000 years old, that Asa both did and did not remove the high places (1Ki 15.14; 2Chr 4.2-3), that the Law is perfect when it allows you to beat your slave to death as long as it takes him a day or two to finally expire (Lev 21.20-21), etc. What’s perfect about that? Presumably, Jesus was aware of some of these problems, but he still talked about it being authoritative for the Jewish religion, while clearly maintaining that it would be so only until he himself fulfilled it. And not only that, the early Christians (specifically the Johannine community) took that to mean that he replaced the allegedly “eternal”, “perfect”, “authoritative” OT with a new, better Word of God: himself. If Jesus believed the standard fundie/evangelical position on what the Bible is, I could not agree with him; I’d chalk it up to his humanity. But I consider this to be an unlikely position anyway: if Jesus did hear from God and did believe that the Tanakh was not eternal but could be fulfilled/superseded and that the religion it governed could pass away (in contradiction to many statements in the OT), then he already sounds a lot more like my position than the soft inerrantist’s anyway.

    • Doug Moody

      Steve,

      if Jesus did hear from God and did believe that the Tanakh was not eternal but could be fulfilled/superseded and that the religion it governed could pass away (in contradiction to many statements in the OT), then he already sounds a lot more like my position than the soft inerrantist’s anyway.

      OK, yes, I understand and agree with this statement. It is entirely true.
      Yet, I still don’t know how you view the bible’s worth for a new believer. I know that for me, it HAD to be the bible that informed me and brought my faith from a “child” to that of an “adult” in the Lord. It could not have happened otherwise (at least for me)
      Now, I will not deny that even today people are being converted WITHOUT the written bible. It happens a lot. OTOH, GROWTH rarely happens without the bible.
      I have heard many stories about missionaries going to another country, getting an initial response, and then doing nothing more than raising up a bunch of “babes in Christ” who grew no further.
      Many times, the growth that occurs happens because of the personal charisma or leadership of an individual.
      Is that wrong? Does God wish people to stay in a perpetual state of initial acceptance of Jesus, and nothing more?
      Under your proposition, the bible cannot be trusted as a primary source of growth. Under your ideas, simply listening to the Spirit is all that is needed. Do the scriptures not say to “grow in grace AND knowledge” Can you tell me what “knowledge” is being referenced here, if it is not knowledge gleaned from study of the bible?

      • Thanks for pushing the bounds of my question of “what that means to us”. But in the end, I honestly can’t see how it matters that much. I’m not really trying to equate the two, but one could learn a lot about wise ways to live by reading Buddhist writings, so why should we not expect to find as much or more in Scripture?

        Can you tell me what “knowledge” is being referenced here, if it is not knowledge gleaned from study of the bible?

        My take: the knowledge is how to live, not cold, hard facts about this or that. This was always the sort of knowledge valued by the biblical writers, not to be replaced until the gnostic emphasis on esoteric, fundamentally impractical knowledge. Notice all the things the OT is said to be profitable for in 2Ti 3.16-17: teaching (διδασκαλία), reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness — why? — so the man of God may be perfectly equipped for every good work. Of these, only “teaching” isn’t obviously related to godly living, and even that certainly is if the modifying phrase “in righteousness” taken to refer to all of four nouns (as it probably is).

        None of this is placed in jeopardy by the sort of reading I’m talking about. I mean, we already recognize the limits of biblical wisdom: the maxim, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is widely recognized to be a non-universal principle, but another way of saying this is that it does hold true in all circumstances. This could be deemed an “error” in a strict concordist reading, could it not? But we are content to take it for what it’s worth, no worse for the wear. Do you see where I’m going here?

    • Doug Moody

      Steve,

      if Jesus did hear from God and did believe that the Tanakh was not eternal but could be fulfilled/superseded and that the religion it governed could pass away (in contradiction to many statements in the OT), then he already sounds a lot more like my position than the soft inerrantist’s anyway.

      OK, yes, I understand and agree with this statement. It is entirely true.
      Yet, I still don’t know how you view the bible’s worth for a new believer. I know that for me, it HAD to be the bible that informed me and brought my faith from a “child” to that of an “adult” in the Lord. It could not have happened otherwise (at least for me)
      Now, I will not deny that even today people are being converted WITHOUT the written bible. It happens a lot. OTOH, GROWTH rarely happens without the bible.
      I have heard many stories about missionaries going to another country, getting an initial response, and then doing nothing more than raising up a bunch of “babes in Christ” who grew no further.
      Many times, the growth that occurs happens because of the personal charisma or leadership of an individual.
      Is that wrong? Does God wish people to stay in a perpetual state of initial acceptance of Jesus, and nothing more?
      Under your proposition, the bible cannot be trusted as a primary source of growth. Under your ideas, simply listening to the Spirit is all that is needed. Do the scriptures not say to “grow in grace AND knowledge” Can you tell me what “knowledge” is being referenced here, if it is not knowledge gleaned from study of the bible?

      • Thanks for pushing the bounds of my question of “what that means to us”. But in the end, I honestly can’t see how it matters that much. I’m not really trying to equate the two, but one could learn a lot about wise ways to live by reading Buddhist writings, so why should we not expect to find as much or more in Scripture?

        Can you tell me what “knowledge” is being referenced here, if it is not knowledge gleaned from study of the bible?

        My take: the knowledge is how to live, not cold, hard facts about this or that. This was always the sort of knowledge valued by the biblical writers, not to be replaced until the gnostic emphasis on esoteric, fundamentally impractical knowledge. Notice all the things the OT is said to be profitable for in 2Ti 3.16-17: teaching (διδασκαλία), reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness — why? — so the man of God may be perfectly equipped for every good work. Of these, only “teaching” isn’t obviously related to godly living, and even that certainly is if the modifying phrase “in righteousness” taken to refer to all of four nouns (as it probably is).

        None of this is placed in jeopardy by the sort of reading I’m talking about. I mean, we already recognize the limits of biblical wisdom: the maxim, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is widely recognized to be a non-universal principle, but another way of saying this is that it does hold true in all circumstances. This could be deemed an “error” in a strict concordist reading, could it not? But we are content to take it for what it’s worth, no worse for the wear. Do you see where I’m going here?

    • Doug Moody

      None of this is placed in jeopardy by the sort of reading I’m talking about

      and…

      Do you see where I’m going here?

      No, I really don’t! I don’t understand the “kind of reading” you are promoting. For example, if I read something in the bible that I am convinced is 100% accurate because I have done my homework, and it turns out that my experiences confirm my suspicions, should I continue to hold on to that belief until I die, or shuold I always be searching for something even MORE convincing and MORE than certain about what I was already certain about?

      That SEEMS to be what you are arguing for, and I am probably misinterpreting what you said (because I am not 100% certain 🙂 )

      • Doug, what we find to be accurate through due diligence in our homework is precisely what we should hold on to, and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from this. But dismissing everything that contradicts our earlier conclusions is an extremely bad practice, as I hope you would agree, as is assuming that everything is 100% accurate before doing due diligence in our homework. This latter is what I think is the gaping pitfall of inerrantism.

    • Doug Moody

      None of this is placed in jeopardy by the sort of reading I’m talking about

      and…

      Do you see where I’m going here?

      No, I really don’t! I don’t understand the “kind of reading” you are promoting. For example, if I read something in the bible that I am convinced is 100% accurate because I have done my homework, and it turns out that my experiences confirm my suspicions, should I continue to hold on to that belief until I die, or shuold I always be searching for something even MORE convincing and MORE than certain about what I was already certain about?

      That SEEMS to be what you are arguing for, and I am probably misinterpreting what you said (because I am not 100% certain 🙂 )

      • Doug, what we find to be accurate through due diligence in our homework is precisely what we should hold on to, and I wouldn’t want to dissuade anyone from this. But dismissing everything that contradicts our earlier conclusions is an extremely bad practice, as I hope you would agree, as is assuming that everything is 100% accurate before doing due diligence in our homework. This latter is what I think is the gaping pitfall of inerrantism.

    • Doug Moody

      But dismissing everything that contradicts our earlier conclusions is an extremely bad practice, as I hope you would agree, as is assuming that everything is 100% accurate before doing due diligence in our homework.

      Agreed. So then that begs the REAL question, as Pilate asked “What is truth”?
      This discussion has prompted something very profound in me, and I think this is summed up in the following scripture [John 5] I cite the whole:

      30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
      31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 “There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.

      Witness of John

      33 “You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 “But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

      Witness of Works

      36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

      Witness of the Father

      37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

      Witness of the Scripture

      39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 “I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

      Can’t we agree. from Jesus’ own statement, that Moses was, for the Jews, their only hope?. Can’t we further agree that IF the Jews of Jesus’ day had believed what Moses wrote, then they would have received Jesus as their Lord?
      Apparently, even though the scriptures were themselves holy and perfect, they DID have a flaw in that those who relied upon the scriptures for their salvation were missing the point – that is – that perfection could not come even from a perfectly God-breathed text! The Jews missed that part.
      So, your premise that the bible is “human” literature is true. But I believe its true in a different sense than what you are saying. It is human for those who think on a “human” level, but it is spiritual for those who think on a spiritual level. Jesus said so! Here is a good conclusion to what I am saying [emphasis mine]

      17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
      25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

    • Doug Moody

      But dismissing everything that contradicts our earlier conclusions is an extremely bad practice, as I hope you would agree, as is assuming that everything is 100% accurate before doing due diligence in our homework.

      Agreed. So then that begs the REAL question, as Pilate asked “What is truth”?
      This discussion has prompted something very profound in me, and I think this is summed up in the following scripture [John 5] I cite the whole:

      30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
      31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 “There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true.

      Witness of John

      33 “You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 “But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 “He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.

      Witness of Works

      36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.

      Witness of the Father

      37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

      Witness of the Scripture

      39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 “I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

      Can’t we agree. from Jesus’ own statement, that Moses was, for the Jews, their only hope?. Can’t we further agree that IF the Jews of Jesus’ day had believed what Moses wrote, then they would have received Jesus as their Lord?
      Apparently, even though the scriptures were themselves holy and perfect, they DID have a flaw in that those who relied upon the scriptures for their salvation were missing the point – that is – that perfection could not come even from a perfectly God-breathed text! The Jews missed that part.
      So, your premise that the bible is “human” literature is true. But I believe its true in a different sense than what you are saying. It is human for those who think on a “human” level, but it is spiritual for those who think on a spiritual level. Jesus said so! Here is a good conclusion to what I am saying [emphasis mine]

      17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
      25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.