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Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - First Time Caller - 09-11-2016

My opinions on inerrancy have definitely changed over the past months.  A relief, actually.  But I was thinking today... as my Sunday School teacher was discussing the story of God testing Abraham.  It was comforting to give myself permission to wonder whether or not God would really ask a parent to sacrifice his child.  But, later, when one of the promises of God was being discussed, I had to wonder about that too.  Can we be skeptical about the parts of the Bible that we'd rather not believe literally, and still claim the promises that God has made and still find comfort in them?  If the parts of the Bible that make God look evil are not true, then doesn't that make the parts that portray him as loving and kind suspect as well?  At some point, does this line of thought render the bible useless?


Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - rtgmath - 09-11-2016

My own experience with the struggle over inerrancy is that I had to reorient my understanding of "truth." Truth in the Biblical sense has nothing to do with fact, but with how we perceive our experience. Or perhaps, the moral lesson of trusting God was the essential "truth" of the story, whether Abraham actually went through that experience or not (if there was an actual Abraham).

The Scriptures record how people experienced God, how they interpreted that experience--not how God necessarily intended the experience to be.

I find some comfort in the idea that God has changed over time, not in essentially intending to be a good God, but more in that He comes across as, "Well, that didn't work. Let's try something else." And He did keep trying different things, until Jesus.


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RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - Norm - 09-11-2016

I read, today, Augustine of Hippo's approach on interpreting scripture. If you're interested, it's a pretty good read. Go to the Catholic answers website and search for "Scripture Through the Eyes of Augustine.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I, personally, am questioning much of what I was taught in my childhood, teenage, and early adult years, and sometimes it's scary. But, as Peter said in response to Jesus' question if the twelve disciples were also going to desert him... "Lord, to whom would we go...?"

If I were ever to come to the conclusion that Christianity is a man made religion, that the "God of Abraham" is a figment of the imagination, that Jesus either never existed or that he was nothing more than a moral revolutionary, I can't fathom what that would mean for my life. Literally, I don't know.

For instance, as I sit in my den typing this post, I look on the wall and view a picture of my dad who passed away a little over two years ago. I loved and still love that man with a piece of me that I can only describe as died when he did. Thessalonians tells me not to grieve as those who have no hope. I will see him again. If Jesus didn't resurrect from the dead, my hope of seeing my dad again is gone... completely gone. As I try to wrap my mind around the fact that I would never, ever see my dad again, even though I can't bring myself to fully commit to that thought because I don't believe that, I feel a tinge of utter despair, depression, maybe even a hint of insanity creep in. That's just one of the many aspects of my life that would crumble were I to conclude scripture, the written revelation of God, were for the most part errant and false.

Does that make me weak? Maybe in some people's eyes. Does that make my belief in Jesus a crutch? Maybe in some people's eyes. But as I view my life, I realize, even though I am far, far, far from "Godly", my belief in the person of Jesus IS the cornerstone, literally what I am building my hope on, of my existence.

To whom would I turn?


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - First Time Caller - 09-11-2016

I do believe in Jesus.  Absolutely.  And I don't think that makes you weak.  The verse that you mentioned above, from John 6, is one I hold close to my heart.  I have been there, and that was the verse that somehow seemed to catch me when I was floundering.  I do love God's word.  And Jesus is about the only thing I'm sure of lately.  I seem to be able to trust and sense his love, even as I struggle to understand how he can be of the same substance as the Father... who seems hateful and angry and unforgiving.  Everything that Jesus is not.  

I understand what you are saying, and it resonates with me.  It's mostly some of the portrayals of God in the Old Testament that I cannot seem to easily accept any longer. God seems to contradict his own commands.  He seems to be almost bipolar.  Being kind and loving one moment, and then striking out in anger the next, over a seemingly small offense.  He seems almost abusive.  Jesus doesn't seem that way to me.  In fact, he seems the opposite.  

I certainly don't have all of the answers, and that's why I'm searching.  I want to understand, I want truth.  I'm not sure that the beliefs I've been taught since I was a child is necessarily the complete truth.  I used to be afraid to learn about other ideas, or to explore what others believe.  But, the truth isn't something to be afraid of.  I want God to be in the midst of my searching, and to trust that He can guard my faith as I search.  I have no one else to turn to either.

I will try to find the article you mentioned.


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - First Time Caller - 09-11-2016

Actually, as I think about it... there's some things in the New Testament I'm not really sure about either, to be honest. But Jesus, and his death and resurrection, aren't among them.


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - Miss TTU Runner-Up - 09-11-2016

I think the Bible is a "living" document, in a sense. It is intended to be interacted with, wrestled with even. I understand your fear--it feels like if you take away inerrancy, then everything else falls apart. But inerrancy is not a tenet of every Christian faith or denomination. For me, it has been a process of sorting, sifting, testing the things I read in the Bible and elsewhere, and spending a lot more time listening and thinking than I used to. I try to approach it all with the humility of knowing that I was so very wrong before, and may still be wrong.


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - Norm - 09-12-2016

This may sound controversial, but I'm not as concerned with the facts of the Bible being inerrant as I am with the principles of the Bible being inerrant. I've heard such arguments like Jesus feeding 5000 and Jesus feeding 4000 are the same event with differing accounts on the size of the crowd fed, thus, one of them must be incorrect. That the census count of Israel and Judah is recorded differently in Samuel than in Chonicles. That the book of Kings records Solomon's "molten sea" holding 2000 baths while Chronicles records it held 3000 baths.

Again, the article about how Augustine instructed one to interpret scripture is pretty good. I do believe scripture is consistent throughout its entirety when it comes to principles.

I do understand how it is hard to see God [the Father] and Jesus [the Son] as the same person when it often appears God is a bi-polar tyrant and Jesus is a compassionate servant.

I'm using various new testament scriptures here, and I don't know if I'm putting them together correctly, so if I'm connecting dots that shouldn't be connected, either ignore what I have to say or correct me, either way is fine.

James 2:19 says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe - and shudder!" So James is saying you are correct to believe that there is but one, true God. But if you don't go any further than that belief, you haven't done anything more than what the demons, who are directly opposed to that God, have done. John 14:1 says, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me." John seems to be saying [and I may get way off track theologically here] that you believe in God [the bi-polar tyrant], believe also in me [the compassionate servant]. The bi-polar tyrant makes us aware that we are guilty. The compassionate servant makes us aware we are forgiven.

I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." I read a commentary the other day that spoke of how the John that wrote these three letters [1st, 2nd, and 3rd John] was pretty old when he wrote these and had narrowed his focus down to love. He wasn't focused on living a strict, moral, "Christian" life. He wasn't focused on "taking a stand for Jesus". He wasn't focused on being a "warrior of the faith" or a "Godly man". He was focused on love.

As I read that verse, it really strikes a chord with me. There is no fear in love. No fear. Why? Because fear has to do with punishment and love does away with punishment. So, according to scripture, if we are afraid of God, we are afraid he is going to punish us. What is the ultimate punishment we all [who grew up in the "IFB culture"] fear? Hell. Eternal damnation. But we don't need to fear punishment. The only reason to fear punishment is if we are relying on our good behavior to grant us eternal life. Anyone who fears is not living a strict enough, good enough, moral enough life. Wait a minute, that's not what it said. Anyone who fears punishment doesn't understand the love of God.

The Message says it like this, "...so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love."

I might could sum up like this. Much, probably most, of the conservative, holiness/evangelical, "IFB" teaching motivates through fear. I don't find anywhere that Jesus or any of his disciples who's teaching is recorded (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, etc.) ever motivated through anything but love.


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - First Time Caller - 09-12-2016

Quote:My own experience with the struggle over inerrancy is that I had to reorient my understanding of "truth." Truth in the Biblical sense has nothing to do with fact, but with how we perceive our experience. Or perhaps, the moral lesson of trusting God was the essential "truth" of the story, whether Abraham actually went through that experience or not (if there was an actual Abraham). 

The Scriptures record how people experienced God, how they interpreted that experience--not how God necessarily intended the experience to be. 

I struggle with making "truth" into something that's not firm.  But, much of what we consider to be truth is really just our interpretation of our experiences.  My children will give me two vastly different accounts of the same event, and both will swear that they are telling the truth.  In their minds, they are.  They can only see their own perspective, until they actually listen to each other.  I am beginning to accept this view of the Bible - that it was written by people sharing their experiences, and is clouded by their perceptions.  However, passages like I Samuel 15 don't seem to allow room for this view of truth.  There's not much room for a difference of perspective.  Either God commanded genocide, or he didn't.  Though as I type, I wonder if maybe the Israelites had decided to commit genocide, and justified it by believing that God told them to do it.  

Quote:I think the Bible is a "living" document, in a sense. It is intended to be interacted with, wrestled with even. I understand your fear--it feels like if you take away inerrancy, then everything else falls apart. But inerrancy is not a tenet of every Christian faith or denomination. For me, it has been a process of sorting, sifting, testing the things I read in the Bible and elsewhere, and spending a lot more time listening and thinking than I used to. I try to approach it all with the humility of knowing that I was so very wrong before, and may still be wrong.

Yes, I think that's a good description of where I'm at.  "Certainty" is no longer something I have.  I'm not sure if I'll ever get it back, and that's unsettling.


Norm, I will reply to your post separately, but I haven't been able to find the article you mentioned.  When I googled "Catholic answers" it took me to a website, but I couldn't find it.  Is there any way you can post the link?


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - Norm - 09-12-2016

FTC, I started a new thread in believer space titled "Scripture Through the Eyes of Augustine". I linked the site, the article, and copied the article in.


RE: Thoughts on the issue of inerrancy - First Time Caller - 09-12-2016

(09-12-2016, 10:23 AM)Norm Wrote: This may sound controversial, but I'm not as concerned with the facts of the Bible being inerrant as I am with the principles of the Bible being inerrant.  I've heard such arguments like Jesus feeding 5000 and Jesus feeding 4000 are the same event with differing accounts on the size of the crowd fed, thus, one of them must be incorrect.  That the census count of Israel and Judah is recorded differently in Samuel than in Chonicles.  That the book of Kings records Solomon's "molten sea" holding 2000 baths while Chronicles records it held 3000 baths.

Again, the article about how Augustine instructed one to interpret scripture is pretty good.  I do believe scripture is consistent throughout its entirety when it comes to principles.

I do understand how it is hard to see God [the Father] and Jesus [the Son] as the same person when it often appears God is a bi-polar tyrant and Jesus is a compassionate servant.

I'm using various new testament scriptures here, and I don't know if I'm putting them together correctly, so if I'm connecting dots that shouldn't be connected, either ignore what I have to say or correct me, either way is fine.

James 2:19 says, "You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe - and shudder!"  So James is saying you are correct to believe that there is but one, true God.  But if you don't go any further than that belief, you haven't done anything more than what the demons, who are directly opposed to that God, have done.  John 14:1 says, "Don't let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, and trust also in me."  John seems to be saying [and I may get way off track theologically here] that you believe in God [the bi-polar tyrant], believe also in me [the compassionate servant].  The bi-polar tyrant makes us aware that we are guilty.  The compassionate servant makes us aware we are forgiven.

I John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."  I read a commentary the other day that spoke of how the John that wrote these three letters [1st, 2nd, and 3rd John] was pretty old when he wrote these and had narrowed his focus down to love.  He wasn't focused on living a strict, moral, "Christian" life.  He wasn't focused on "taking a stand for Jesus".  He wasn't focused on being a "warrior of the faith" or a "Godly man".  He was focused on love.

As I read that verse, it really strikes a chord with me.  There is no fear in love.  No fear.  Why?  Because fear has to do with punishment and love does away with punishment.  So, according to scripture, if we are afraid of God, we are afraid he is going to punish us.  What is the ultimate punishment we all [who grew up in the "IFB culture"] fear?  Hell.  Eternal damnation.  But we don't need to fear punishment.  The only reason to fear punishment is if we are relying on our good behavior to grant us eternal life.  Anyone who fears is not living a strict enough, good enough, moral enough life.  Wait a minute, that's not what it said.  Anyone who fears punishment doesn't understand the love of God.

The Message says it like this, "...so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love."

I might could sum up like this.  Much, probably most, of the conservative, holiness/evangelical, "IFB" teaching motivates through fear.  I don't find anywhere that Jesus or any of his disciples who's teaching is recorded (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, etc.) ever motivated through anything but love.

Fear of hell is a powerful motivator.  But, I don't know that hell is the only punishment mentioned in Scripture.  Jesus said that the branches that didn't bear fruit would be cut off.  Hebrews says that God chastens those who he loves.  We see many examples in the Bible of times when the punishment didn't seem to fit the crime.  (Ananias and Sapphira, Moses striking the rock)  

I look at my own life, and wonder if some of it's horrible moments were punishments God has imposed on me. God seems to value suffering, according to Peter.  Yet, I agree that Jesus tells us not to have fear.  To trust him.  The verse about perfect love casting out fear is one I think about often. When I'm fearful of God punishing me for questioning, I remind myself that I'm trying to know him, not leave him, and that I do love him and shouldn't be afraid.  

I believe that Jesus's sacrifice saves from sin and hell.  But, I am often suspicious of God's sovereignty and power over evil.  And uncertain of his goodness at times.  It's difficult to reconcile all of the different ways that the Bible portrays God into one being who is supposed to be loving and good.  Someone once told me that the Old Testament shows how people misunderstood God, how they "got Him wrong."  And that Jesus came to correct that.  To show who God truly was.  I've found a lot of hope in wondering about that; but it requires letting go of inerrancy.