Christianity is changing. Of course it has always been changing – I read once that christianity owes a lot of its success to its adaptability to circumstances and culture. But like most other things, it seems to be changing faster these days.
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.
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?
Since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve visited many other blogs and met people, believers and unbelievers, who have been variously friendly, encouraging, challenging or critical.
Tim is one of those people (friendly and encouraging mainly), and he invited me to write a guest post at his blog, “Just one train wreck after another”. (You’ve got to admit it’s an interesting title.)
Writing a guest post isn’t as easy as it sounds, because you are not so familiar with the aims and readership. Anyway, after a few false starts, I have produced a post I was happy with and he has published it today. It’s about the challenge of obeying the Bible rather than just reading it or arguing over it, and it’s titled We need a lot less Bible study …. and a lot more Bible action!
It is a subject dear to my heart, and you might like to check it out.
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.
None of the four gospels explicitly states who the author(s) is/are, and the names given to them reflect the understanding of the early christians. So scholars are left to determine as best they can whether the names we have were indeed the authors.
Knowing the author probably doesn’t change all that much, but I have always found it an interesting question, especially regarding John.
I am looking at some of the core convictions of the Anabaptists, not because I am an Anabaptist, but because I think we learn from them. We have seen that they emphasise following Jesus, not just believing in him or worshiping him.
Just a week ago I commented on the lack of archaeological evidence for Bethlehem at the time of Jesus – it was known only from about the fourth century on. I said:
“Archaeologists have found little that could identify the town of Bethlehem in the first century, leading a few to argue that it didn’t exist at that time. …. I don’t think this question has been resolved yet”
Another common argument used against christian belief is that the New Testament has been significantly changed since it was first written, so we cannot have any confidence in we are reading. Who knows if it is an accurate reflection of what the original authors wrote?
Eminent scholar Bart Ehrman’s 2005 book Misquoting Jesus outlines his view of “how radically the text has been altered over the years”.
Is the situation really as ‘bad’ as that? What are the facts? I have spent some time checking the matter out.