Tag Archives: truth

Inerrancy Of Scripture: A Reaction To Modernism

 

I do not beleive in the inerrancy of scripture.   I fully acknowledge that my opinion and understanding may be wrong. At the same time, I would add that I have also spent many years seriously studying scripture, living as a committed follower of Christ and have not formed my opinion in a vacuum or in a hurry.

Many would say that there are serious scholars who have been able to carefully harmonize the contradictions in scripture in a way that is acceptable and thoughtful. My experience over the years has been that there are many Christians (many of who are professional clergy) who flippantly explain away contradictions and  I have not personally found even the most careful harmonization of contradictions in scripture sufficient enough for me to continue to claim that scripture is inerrant.

Before I continue I do want to clarify that I am not saying that the many contradictions are a serious threat to the authority or value or credibility of scripture but that our resistance to acknowledge the contradictions is a threat to these things. I may have a different view about the authority of scripture than some who are reading this but that is a different discussion and I don’t believe it hinges on whether or not scripture is inerrant.

Many who believe in the inerrancy of scripture also believe that has been the position of Christians since the formation of the canon.  That is simply not true.   Discussions of inerrancy did not even take place until the modern age. Before then you would find the position being along the lines that there is no false teaching in scripture but that is a long way from claiming scripture is inerrant. In addition,  some might be surprised to find that there are many great and respected theologians through out history who have believed there were (and are) inaccuracies and errors in scripture – people such as Martin Luther, John Chrsyostom, Calvin, Matthew Henry, Charles Hodge to name a few. The fact is that no ancient church council ever debated the issue of inerrancy, let alone announced favor of it and no traditional creed or reformed confession addresses the issue of inerrancy. In other words, the current insistence on inerrancy has its origins in late 19th and early 20th century reactions to modernism. IMO this is a false dichotomy that many thoughtful Christians refuse to accept.

In recent times, I have also begun to believe that the insistence of inerrancy in regards to scripture is a stumbling block and obstacle to what we can learn from scripture.  In addition I have also observed that the insistence of inerrancy tends to make an idol out of scripture among our communities of faith resulting in the displacement of Christ as the center.

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Quotes Worth Repeating – Acknowledging Reality

I found this quote in “Buddhism’s Commitment To Reality”, a great post, from my friend, Jonathan Brink.

If when we investigate something we find there is reason and proof for it, we must acknowledge that as reality, even if it is in contradiction with a literal Scriptural explanation that has held sway for many centuries, or with a deeply held opinion or view. — Dalai Lama

Quotes Worth Repeating – God’s Truth Cannot Be Imprisoned In A Small Definition

“If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don’t find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don’t cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God’s truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition. ”
— Brennan Manning

I Love Stories

stone

I love stories, real and imaginary.  I collect them.  I find them in books, coffee shops, blogs, libraries, work, newspapers, grocery stores, schools, neighborhoods, magazines, social gatherings etc – the sources are endless.  Some are typed up and stored on my pc, some are on pieces of paper tucked in a box that sits on a shelf in my closet, some are in books that stand side by side in my bookshelf and others are just memories stored in my head.  I’ve noticed that the stories that I am most compelled to hang on to one way or the other are stories that not only move me but also teach me.  Sometimes what I learn are things I already knew but somehow the story makes them come alive for me.    So – it is in that spirit that I want to share a story I ran across the other day.

If you have young children you may already be aware of the story.  It is a children’s book that I think was published in 2003 by a man named Douglas Wood.  The name of the book is “The Old Turtle and The Broken Truth.”  This is one of those stories that is loved by all ages.  I encourage you to try to get your hands on a copy of the book as it is beautifully illustrated by Jon J. Muth.  Here’s a summary of the story.  (The lesson is obvious.)

The story is a parable that takes place in a “far away land, somehow not so very far” in “a land where every stone was a teacher and every breeze a language.”

One day a “truth” falls from the sky and breaks.  A piece of the truth falls to the ground and is found by Crow. The stone appeals to him because it is so shiny. But after a while, Crow begins to think that there is something not quite right with the truth he found; he feels it is “broken” and he wants to try to find one that is “whole.”  Fox, Coyote, Raccoon, Butterfly and Bear, are also attracted to the broken truth by its shininess and sweetness. But, one by one, they reject it, for the same reason Crow rejected it – they sense it is “broken”.

Later a human finds the broken truth, and reads the words that are written on it. “You Are Loved,” says the stone, and the person feels good just holding it. He takes it back to his people and they all treasure it. In time, they begin to fear other groups of people who are different from them and who do not share their truth, which they have proclaimed is “The Truth.” They also lose interest in the land and are no longer able to learn from the stones or hear the languages of the breezes.

Over time other groups of people learn about “The Truth” and wish to possess it for themselves. Wars break out, causing the land and all the people to suffer. The animals ask Old Turtle, their wise and ancient leader, to reason with the people and tell them the truth they’re fighting over is broken. But she refuses, saying the people are not ready for this message and that they will not listen to her.

Finally, a young girl, who is distraught because of all the wars and suffering, decides that something must be done, so she travels all alone to the “great hill in the very center of the world” where she meets Old Turtle, and asks her if things could ever change. Old Turtle, realizing this is a human ready to listen, tells the girl that things were not always like this and that there are many beautiful truths all around us and within us—the “small and lovely truths of life” which humans have lost the ability to recognize. And so with the Old Turtle’s help and guidance, the girl learns to hear the language of the breezes. Old Turtle tells the girl that the broken truth will only be mended when one person meets another person different from his or herself, and in that person sees and hears his or herself. Every person is important, according to Old Turtle, and “the world was made for each of us.”

Before she departs, Old Turtle gives the girl a gift, which she has been saving for the right person. The girl accepts it, but isn’t sure what to do with it. When she returns to her people, the girl tries to share the lessons she has learned with them and to show them the language of the breezes, but they don’t believe her and they refuse to listen. The girl is frustrated until she sees Crow flying around the high tower where the cherished broken truth is kept. As she looks up at the tower she realizes the significance of Old Turtle’s gift and climbs up to the broken truth to discover that the broken bit of stone received from Old Turtle fits against the broken truth and forms a heart shaped rock which reads, “You Are Loved—And So Are They.”

Bill Easum and Tony Jones Participate In A Blogologue About The Emerging Church – The Commenters Are The Icing On The Cake!

 
 

There is a great conversation taking place over at Emergent Village between Bill Easum, Tony Jones and various commenters.

The conversation is centered around questions/issues Bill Easum has raised with emergents.

The posts from Bill Easum, one of the most highly respected Christian futurists in North America, and Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village, is delicious enough; but the icing on this cake are the commenters and they turn out to be the real treat – or maybe I should say the real “meat” of the discussion.

If you cannot bring yourself to take the time to read all of the comments make sure that you don’t miss those from Tim Thompson of Feral Pastor and Jonathan Brink of Missio Dei.

I love the way Tim engages in the conversation regarding truth, knowledge and certainty. He lovingly and passionately puts to rest the myth that emergents don’t believe in truth. This isn’t the first time that Tim has said something that I wanted to say but didn’t know how.

In addition, I was so pleased to be introduced to Jonathan Brink through this blogologue – his answers to Bill’s questions are well thought out, deep and yet, clear; and his explanation of what emergent means to him is inspirational, informative and motivating. I will definitely visit his blog, Missio Dei, again.

Before I close this post with some excerpts from Tim and Jonathan, I want to say that although Bill Easum asked some of the same old questions regarding emergent he did not respond negatively or argumentatively to the commenters. He seemed to listen sincerely, disagree respectfully and consistently notice points of agreement…winning my respect and attention, and being a good example for Christianity.

Jonathan begins his comment with an explanation of what emergent means to him:

“Bill asked a series of questions for the Emergents. And I thought I would respond to these questions. But before I begin I would like to respond to what I mean by Emergent and what this word means to me. I take it very seriously and have suffered the consequences for the baggage that it holds, most of which I find to be myth. And let me be clear that this is my definition.

Emergent, to me, is a creative attempt to find a wholistic understanding and practice in what it means to follow Jesus into God’s mission. It is an attempt to get at the heart of what it means to be a broken human in a broken world that is dying for restoration.”

Tim responds to Bill’s question: Is the message of the Gospel actual reality and eternally true, or is it nothing more than a construct of our own language within the community of faith at this particular time in history in this particular place with this particular community?

 “The Gospel is an actual reality that is eternally true – and – our ability to understand it and communicate it is always an imperfect, conditioned, contextual approximation. It’s an approximation because both thinking and speaking rely on language, which is a “jar of clay” in which the treasure can actually be found. Put another Pauline way, not only do we see through a glass dimly, but we also think and speak through smeary lenses as well.”

It’s good – go check it out.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

And That’s The Truth

As you probably know, a lot of the criticism (mostly handed out by evangelicals) of the emergent/emerging movement/conversation/community centers around the subjects of “inerrancy of scripture’ and “truth”.  It wasn’t too long ago that Chuck Colson commented about “the emergent community that rejects the bible” – which, I believe, was his way of saying that if you don’t interpret the bible the way he does, then you are rejecting it.  I find it hard to believe he has actually been in contact with an emergent community that rejects the bible – at least not one that calls itself “Christian”.  See the complete comment here. 

 

 

  The problem is that many, if not most, Christians from my generation believe they (or their pastor or their favorite theologian) have completely and rightly interpreted all scripture and pretty much figured everything out about God to boot.  If we have questions or doubts about their interpretation then we are making up our own religion, or distorting the truth or as Chuck puts it: “rejecting the bible”. 

 

   I can’t say that I don’t understand someone being in that place  – what I don’t understand is that someone could continue to stay in that place when so many from the movement have spoken out to explain that they are not trying to make up some sort of feel good theology but that they are truly grappling with the search for truth and find it hard to believe that anyone has completely figured it all out. 

 

 

 

 I say all of that because I want to share something that I read recently over at Up/Rooted.  It was actually a comment to a comment.  You can read the whole thread here.  This is what I found so thought provoking:

 

 

 

I’m a scientist by training so I’m very, very comfortable with the Modern, scientific way of thinking about “truth” as being related to facts, information, verifiability and so on. So it’s completely jarring to hear Jesus say that he is truth, because “truth” is not something you can be. You can know truth, discover truth, share, record, express, discuss, debate and even be mistaken about truth. You can also be true but you can’t be truth.

So, in making that claim, Jesus shatters the category of “truth” in applying it to himself. It’s not just that it’s hard to understand what he means (we all agree there’s plenty of that), it’s that the statement is formally nonsensicalif – you are using the Modern/scientific categories for understanding the word “truth.”   

That, to me, is where Jesus himself forces me to go outside the arena of factuality and accuracy (and inerrancy) in how I am going to deal with him and relate to him and, I pray, trust in him and obey him. These are, I believe, the things that matter most. When Jesus says “I am the truth” it compels me to move out of the Modern/scientific (and Greek/philosophical) arena and back into the Hebraic realm, where it has never been about facts and Ideas but love, life, and above all relationship as the “category of ultimate concern” if you will. 

But when he says that, it also opens the door for me intellectually to all of the discussion I am finding so lively among the Emergents on issues of language, culture and so on. Truthfully, I’d have to say it actually compels me to go through that door so that I will be more cautious about interpreting scripture, since so much hinges on the categories and definitions I bring to the table, knowingly or unknowingly. 

Let me go one step further. When the word “truth” is used in the Modern/scientific sense, then the word “know” also has a particular sense which corresponds to a cognitive condition. Scientific “knowing” is about having access to actual facts in your mind. But in the Hebraic sense, “to know” is also often used in a relational way. So we get the classic “Adam knew Eve his wife…” in Genesis 4:1. This means that there is at least an interpretive option in how we understand what it means to “know.” 

This profoundly shifts the sense for interpreting a foundational verse such as John 8:31 “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” In a Modern/scientific frame, that translates into something like “You shall actually have access in your mind to the correct information, and that correct information will set you free.” But in a more Hebraic frame of meaning, and following what I think is the sense in John 14, it comes out more like this: “You shall be united in a relationship with me, and I will set you free.” 

For me then, these explorations into the discussion of Truth and so on have resulted in an even more powerful shove towards focusing on my relationship with Jesus. And rather than make me less interested in investing time into reading and studying scripture, it has made that more important as I want to hear what my forbears have to tell me about living a life with God in the way of Jesus. 

 Well, that’s what’s been on my mind. If it’s of any use to others, then thank God for that!
 Blessings –
 Tim

 

Wow!  That is very useful to me!  Does this resonate with anyone else out there?