A few weeks back, influential New York minister Tim Keller spoke at a forum run by the US Ethics and Public Policy Centre, during which he made some comments on the issue of gay marriage. What he said attracted a lot of discussion, but was apparently misunderstood by some, and he subsequently issued an explanation.
I recently wrote about how academics in christian universities and colleges in the USA are finding their professional conclusions coming into conflict with the faith statements of their colleges. But this is an issue that to some degree affects all christians.
How should we respond when secular learning seems to contradict traditional christian belief?
It seems inevitable that there will be a tension for christians between academic knowledge and faith. But sometimes the tension becomes very personal in its impacts, and feelings are high on both sides. These issues have come to a head a number of times in recent years at universities and colleges in the USA.
Many years ago, in a mis-spent youth, I completed some formal theological study. For one subject, I studied the prophet Isaiah. Just this week I prepared and led a study on Isaiah, and renewed my awe of this amazing man.
I really think he had the deepest understanding of God of any person who lived before Jesus, and more than most people since.
There are a number of things about our world, and about the christian faith, that seem hard to explain if God is loving – for example, the pain and suffering people experience, hell, the commands in the Old Testament to kill and even wipe out whole tribes and God’s disapproval of homosexuality.
When it’s all said and done about the Bible, sometimes more is said than done. But the purpose of the Bible is not to simply read, but to lead us to action. What does the Bible call us to do if we choose to follow Jesus?
So far, the matters we have been discussing seem, to me at least, to be fairly clear and straightforward. They have been based on clear statements in the Bible (or lack of them) and the clear views of competent scholars.
But today’s topic is very challenging, and I can’t claim to have many answers. I’ll be interested in any reactions please.
Christians generally believe the Bible, and believe in the Bible, but what should we believe about the Bible?
Probably the strongest claim christians make about the Bible is that it is inerrant – it contains no errors. There are various limits put on this – e.g. it only applies to the original writings, it only applies to the meaning and intention of the writers – but within those limits it is perfectly accurate without the slightest inaccuracy.
We have looked at what Jesus, the Bible and the Bible authors say about the Bible and how they used their scriptures. Now it is time to see what we can conclude about the Bible, and whether some claims about the Bible can be sustained.
First, is it correct to describe the Bible as ‘the Word of God’?
The Bible is divided into two ‘Testaments’. It is obvious that the Old Testament tells about Hebrew history and religion before Jesus, while the New Testament tells about the coming of Jesus and what happened next.
But is that all? Can the differences between the two Testaments tell us something important about the Bible and how we should read it?
Christians have probably argued more about the Bible, and how to interpret it, than almost anything else. Many churches say they believe the “Bible alone”, echoing the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura. Yet I believe there is always a gap between the claim and the actual belief.
I am a christian who believes the Bible reveals God to us, but I want to try to show you that everyone disbelieves some parts of the Bible.