What is the Bible?

 

Steve and Rob are friends who are discussing the meaning of life. Steve is convinced the purpose is to simply do good, be happy, and leave the world a better place than it was before you were born. Rob generally agrees with his friend, and he prods Steve for clarity over what it means to be good, what happiness is, and what the world “should” look like.

In the end, they agree their disagreements flow from a big difference in their epistemology (ep-iss-ta-maw-lo-gee), or, “how you know what you know.” Steve believes that we each determine our own truths, so long as they don’t do harm to others around us. Rob is a Christian who believes the Bible is the final authority and measure of truth. In his frustration about Rob’s continual mention of the Bible, Steve expresses, “What even IS the Bible? It’s just a book, and it’s not even trustworthy. People made it up and threw it together, stop talking about the Bible!”

According to a joint-study of Barna Group and American Bible Society’s on The State of the Bible,

  • 80% of Americans consider the Bible sacred literature.
  • 1/3 of Americans claim to read the Bible at least once a week.
  • 62% have a desire to read the Bible more frequently.
  • 50% of American Christian Millennials believe it is the Word of God and has no errors (some verses were meant to be taken figuratively, and not every verse is literal)
  • 27% of American Millennials who are not Christians believe the Bible is a dangerous book which promotes oppression.
  • 19% of American Millennials who are not Christians believe the Bible is completely outdated and has no relevance to life today.

The impact of the Bible on history cannot be disputed. But what is the Bible? Is it any different from other books? And is the Bible trustworthy?

The purpose here is not to persuade anyone new that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but to clarify historic Christian teaching about what the Bible is.

bible Continue reading

Can God Out-Vote You?

We all want to rule our lives and call our own shots. It’s just reality. This is where our trouble with God comes in… Because we grasp for the authority that only He should have.

The question we each need to ask, especially we who call ourselves Christians, is this: Can God out-vote me?

When my opinion differs from God’s Word (yes, I’m assuming you believe the Bible to be the Word of God, trying to prove that is subject for another post), will I stand corrected, or will I bend Scripture to my opinion?

We can bend a Scripture to our own wills in a few ways:

  1. Simply ignore that passage in favor of other passages we like more. This isn’t always intentional, but it happens when we only read portions of Scripture we like and avoid the parts we don’t. It also happens when we only read the New Testament and ignore the Old.
  2. Claim the verse only referred to people in that culture but doesn’t apply today. Sometimes this is actually the case, but be careful about jumping to this conclusion before taking the passage seriously and doing your homework.
  3. We simply assume that our opinions are biblical, and therefore don’t need to actually read it. Maybe you grew up in church, so you think you know “enough Bible” to get by, but that’s just it… the Christian life ought to be about treasuring and honoring God our Savior… not just “getting by.” Often, this mentality reflects a misinformed faith, and leads people to think they are spiritually “fine” when they aren’t (let Jesus’ words here be your warning).

I suspect that most American Christians fall into the third category. National polls have shown that although most Americans consider themselves Christians (see here and here), very few actually read the Bible despite affirming their belief that it is the Word of God (check this out), and only 9% have a “biblical worldview” on a theological and a variety of lifestyle issues (see here).

This tells me that although many people believe the Bible is the Word of God, they simply assume that they understand it well enough to say “My opinion is the Bible’s opinion.” This is a position which is increasingly difficult to hold, especially as sexuality continues to hold front-stage in national debates.

Who Holds Veto Power?
So… When it comes to discerning right from wrong… Can God overrule you? Can He out-vote you? Or do you hold veto power?

How you answer that question reveals who really has authority in your life. And there’s no such thing as a Christian who serves himself first. The call to follow Christ is a call to put yourself aside.

Can the Bible Correct You?

I had a conversation a while ago with a friend who a Christian and is struggling through some difficult doctrines. In the midst of our conversation he said a few things I’ve been thinking about:

1. “I just don’t like it when people have an ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ attitude.”

2. “I just don’t want to believe it.”

Ultimately, I think these comments come down to this question: Will you allow Scripture to correct your thinking. Here’s why I think this is the foundational question.

1. As Christians, we must be people who stand upon God’s revealed Word (the Bible) rather than our own opinions. 

2. When our opinion and God’s Word seem to be at odds, we need to be honest as we dig into Scripture to unveil the original intent (exegesis). Yes, there are cultural differences between our lives today and the culture of the Bible, but we need to be honest and have the integrity to resist merely saying, “Oh, well that was for them, not for us.” We need to honestly examine why it was for them and not for us and dig deeper than “Because that’s how I want it.”

3. When we refuse to believe what the Bible reveals, what we claim to believe about Biblical Authority and what we really believe are at odds with each other. It’s good to affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture, but if we will not allow God’s Word to correct us then we do not really believe what we think we believe.

4. Truth brings joy. Yes, there are times when it is difficult and painful to believe some things in Scripture, and there are times when I wish I could believe differently because it would be a whole lot easier. But God’s truth brings joy… eventually. Once we see God for who He is and we understand what He has done and what He is doing then even in the midst of the difficulty of faith, we rejoice in who God is and what He has promised.

If you are wrestling with something in Scripture that you do not want to believe… that’s ok. I think we should all be in that position, because it shows that we’re being honest about our beliefs and our preferences and we’re bringing them before God.

A few tips on wrestling with Scripture:

1. Pray. Ask God to increase your faith in Him and not in yourself or in your own preferences. We need to be people who are finally and ultimately devoted to God. We may know that, but are we truly willing to be that kind of person?

2. Interpret Scripture through Scripture. That may sound confusing, but the best way to understand difficult things in the Bible is by understanding what other verses/portions of the Bible have to say about that same thing. Interpret what is obscure or unclear through what is consistently and clearly taught. This also means we should interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament (but that’s a whole other blog post for another day).

3. Dig Dig Dig. God gave you a brain, he wants you to use it. Study, research, and read what has been written. There are many sites online that provide free Bible Study tools (crosswalk.com is probably the most well known; GotAnswers.com has great Q&A type of articles too).

4. Don’t think you’re alone. You are not the first person to ask the question your asking or to study the passage you’re studying. Read what others have written, but also talk to other Christians about this. Maybe they’re wondering the same thing but think they’re alone… study it together.

5. Finally, have faith. There are some things we will simply never fully understand because we aren’t meant to. That’s not an excuse to avoid intelligently pursuing truth. Instead, it’s a call to remember that God is infinite and you are finite. God is mysterious, but He has made Himself known… in part. If you think you can explain everything about who God is and what He has done (and will do) then either your wisdom is infinite or you have made God finite. There comes a point where you may need to humbly say, “I don’t know everything I want to know, but I know enough to confidently trust God.”

One of the greatest ways we can honor God is by trusting Him when we don’t want to.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1