Struggling with Scripture

Bible

I wrote this two years ago and never published it. I have been thinking about it today and decided I needed to go ahead and put it out there. Some may label me a heretic, a liberal, apostate, or a false teacher. What I really hope is that perhaps this connects with someone who struggles with questions about Biblical inerrancy. Please don’t misunderstand my tone or my intent. Patiently read to the end. I’m fine with disagreement…but please keep conversations civil and let’s stay FAR away from the arguments about current or contemporary translations of the Bible.

Here goes:

I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a gentleman that grew up as a Roman Catholic. He grew up accepting the general beliefs about the Bible and creation and so on. Then when he went to college, he majored in archaeology and he told me that now his beliefs from the faith he had growing up were in conflict with what he had learned in college. As we continued to talk, I mentioned that at one time I accepted the idea of evolution and that I had done research on it and found it to be very wanting as a theory…then in the middle of me stating my position, something happened…I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me to just listen. He was impressing upon me that I didn’t have to convince this gentleman of anything…I simply needed to listen to him. His posture was nonthreatening…and definitely not antagonistic. He was very respectful as he spoke. He simply had questions and he felt as though he needed to explore those questions. I finally asked him if he believed in God at all. He said he did, but that he really didn’t know what to believe ABOUT God. His ideas were far from mine, but I could tell during the conversation that he was not accustomed to having a Christian listen to him. He actually seemed a bit awkward and possibly uncomfortable…perhaps from being on unusual ground in relation to conversations with Christians.

I won’t lie…my first inclination was to argue. My first instinct was to try and “fix” him. Then I realized I was wrong. I realized that I felt that way because in my heart of hearts I had a sense of urgency about defending the truth of Scripture…but as the conversation went on, I realized something. The Scripture doesn’t need me to defend it. I think the reason I always feel the need to do that is because I tend to put a lot of faith in what the Bible says. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. As a matter of fact, I think it’s a very good thing. However, sometimes we take this to an unhealthy and perhaps unintended end. Perhaps we get so riled up because we have put so much of our faith into the “facts” that the Bible states and in so doing tend to take our attention away from the larger “truth” it presents.

Let’s be totally honest here. As much as we want to try and explain it away, there are some difficulties in the Bible. Some call them contradictions…but I think perhaps discrepancies may be a better term. One Gospel account has the disciples arriving to the empty tomb before dawn, while the other says it was after dawn. One says the angels were outside the tomb, the other says they were inside the tomb. One says there is one demon possessed man in a particular story, while the other says there are two. Do these accounts contradict and therefore disprove one another? I don’t think so, nor do I think we have to do any linguistic acrobatics in order to try and maintain that every single little fact stated is literally factual.

Norm Geisler said that the Bible is not as much of a true book as it is a book of truth. Those are two vastly different concepts. If it is written to be a true book (which is to say an absolutely factual book) then the idea is that we are to use it as a tool to fact check every little thing in life…and in so doing, we lose the big picture of the story in the details. But…if it is a book of truth…well then we must examine the overarching truth of the book. It is a story of truth about the relationship between God and man. The pattern is: Creation=> Rebellion=> Redemption=> Reconciliation=> Resurrection=> Evangelization/Sanctification=> Glorification. The truth of the Scripture is way too rich to be reduced down to whether or not the accounts agree exactly. The truth is this: the disciples arrived at the tomb sometime near the early morning hours. There were two angelic beings there in the vicinity of the tomb. The greatest point of all is that the Body of Jesus of Nazareth WAS NOT THERE. This is important NOT because if proves our faith but because it testifies of the new creation that began with His resurrection!

As I listened to my friend, he seemed a bit apprehensive, and he said that didn’t want to disrespect my beliefs. I opened my mouth and the Holy Spirit gave me words. I said, “That would make a difference if my faith was based on fact…but it isn’t. It’s based on a relationship with a real person. I know Jesus. It doesn’t matter if someone tries to convince me that I don’t (which he was not trying to do).” I’ve experienced His reality in my life and I feel His presence in my soul. I speak to Him in prayer, and He speaks to my heart. I came to a realization: if my beliefs can be debunked by argument, then my faith is in a system or facts and not a Person.

I trust the Bible. I believe that it is a divine Book of Truth. I can’t explain away all of the strange parts in it. I don’t understand how to reconcile the difficulties. And…I’ve quit worrying about it. If that makes me an ignorant, small-minded simpleton…well…so be it. Paul said that if we are fools, it’s for Christ’s sake. I have to be okay with being a fool. This does not mean that I reject the possibility of others’ ideas. This simply means that I am not responsible for making human sense out of the difficulties or extremely challenging parts of God’s Word. My relationship to Him isn’t textual. My relationship to Him is personal. This is not to take away from the authority of Scripture…but it is to free of us from the bondage of the sometimes unintentional black-and-white. The greater importance is that our relationship with the Father is organic over legalistic.

The reality is this: Jesus is enough to me in order to prove the truth of my faith. Faith cannot be factually established. If so, then it’s not faith…but fact. No matter what anyone tries to convince me of, the truth is that I have a relationship with Him that is real and life-changing and I don’t need anyone tell me that it’s accurate. I know it is. This doesn’t mean that I think we evolved. It just means that I don’t really care a whole lot about that…I care about introducing people to the real, living lover of my soul…Who changed is always changing me.

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*Image taken from: God, The Bible, and Being Consistent on Inconsistency

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13 comments on “Struggling with Scripture

  1. Warren says:

    I looooved it! this line was classic: “if my beliefs can be debunked by argument, then my faith is in a system or facts and not a Person” You should of published this a longed time ago=)

  2. Aimee Gibson says:

    Beautiful! Love this! Thanks so much for posting!

  3. Chris R says:

    good job listening to the Spirit, very true that God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He has it under control. I very much enjoyed your blog and our relationship with Him is based on faith and not facts, and because of that fact we have faith …

  4. Billy Allen says:

    I had a professor my freshman year at UNC, Astronomy class, who told me that faith in a Diety who can create just by speaking things into existence didn’t make sense to him, that he’d never understood that logic.
    But to me, that’s exactly the very definition of faith: believing in something when common sense tells you not to!

  5. Bob says:

    I believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of scripture. But I do not believe in my infallibility and inerrancy of interpreting, teaching or understanding it.

  6. Jason says:

    “This simply means that I am not responsible for making sense out of God’s Word.” Whose voice do you hear? A while back I assured you that your were qualified to teach. After gaining insight into your mind through your teaching, I’m afraid I can no longer stand by what I told you.

    Question: would you be interested in a public debate between you and I? I’m sure we would both learn a lot through it. Let me know.

    • Jason says:

      Some factors that may help in your decision:
      1. Have no fear
      2. You can have home field advantage. We can conduct this public debate in your church.
      3. You can pick the topic
      4. We will only use scripture
      5. It will be professional
      6. We will use a moderator
      7. You have better public speaking skills than I.

      • Jason says:

        Two things will be accomplished in the debate, provided you accept:
        1. I will prove you wrong
        2. I will prove you right

        No matter the scriptural topic you choose, let me explain. First, using scripture, I will show the audience that a teacher of the Word is responsible for “making sense out of God’s Word” thus proving you wrong. Secondly, using scripture, I will show the audience that you are in fact “not responsible” in terms of teaching scriptural truth, thus proving you right. Why is this? You do not have the vision nor clarity to teach the Word.

        I’m not kindling a fire against you that it becomes so hot it singes me. I’m simply presenting you with an opportunity to prove your words. If you’re a man of truth you will accept this invitation to prove yourself and your teaching.

        You have much at stake if you accept and I understand this. But, there is an appointed time and season in which you must provide an answer. I’m simply providing you this opportunity in the here and now. I assure you that if you accept this challenge which I have offered that I too will be anxious and nervous. I too have much at stake. On the one hand, I must provide the audience with scriptural truth. On the other hand, you must be prepared to defend your opinion of the truth. Unfortunately, the truth will be found within the debate. Are you ready to be tested? Are you ready for witnesses to see the test? Are you ready to risk your reputation? Pray about it and choose wisely.

        I love you.

        • steve c. says:

          I really didn’t want to engage this but your tenacity is getting silly. So, here is my response:
          You have TOTALLY misunderstood and/or misconstrued the intent of what I wrote…yet…again, misquoted me…and taken me out of context. I haven’t responded because, frankly, I don’t enter into arguments with people. You’re not interested in discussion…but in proving to someone that you’re right. Since you have begun to follow this set of teachings to which you adhere, you’ve become more and more staunchly close-minded. You’ve got it figured out. Now you believe me to be a false teacher and unqualified. No problem. Sounds like you should stop reading my writings. There are plenty of other blogs out there to troll. I have no interest in a debate. Neither do you. You want to stand in front of people and fight over issues that are bizarre.

          Since you NEVER asked for a clarification of what I was saying in this article, I’ll tell you. My point in this article, if you take it as a whole was simply to acknowledge that Christ is superior to all and that a relationship with Him wasn’t about having all of our ducks in a row factually. I spoke of how there are areas of Scripture that are troubling. I admitted that I didn’t have all the answers to those issues. The point was that I don’t have to have all of those answers because I have a living relationship.

          You told me to have no fear. This is not anything fearful. It’s truly just a red herring to what I wrote in the article. You either didn’t read it all, didn’t understand it all, or dishonestly took some of it out of context to try to “pick a fight.” I have no idea why you continually attempt to bait me into argument on this forum. As I said, there are plenty of others out there that will gladly take you up on it.

          There are many reasons I would not “debate.” Among them: I know you and I don’t know how else to say this…but…debating with you would be the same as debating with a stop sign. Like I said, you believe you’ve got it all figured out. Good for you. I’m not entering into conversation with someone that is totally closed off to the idea that perhaps their ideas aren’t entirely accurate. I am willing to bend when someone else is as well, but if they are rigidly set…well…perhaps it’s a character flaw of mine…but I have a hard time with that. Another reason I would not debate is this: It has no redemptive end. It will not glorify Christ.

          To choose wisely is to walk away from “foolish controversies.”========> “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self condemned.” (Titus 3:9-10)

          Seems to me that you should be reading someone else’s stuff.

          I’ll wrap this up by saying this: I love you, too. You and I must agree to disagree in love and go our separate ways. You may allow that to make you think whatever you want about me. It is truly of no concern. I’m not trying to convince the world of anything. I’m sharing Christ and just trying to be transparent with the struggles I have. Those struggles, apparently, disqualify me from being someone that you can learn from. That’s not a problem for me. Take care.

          • Jason says:

            The struggles we all experience are not disqualifying factors. The factors which disqualify teachers, in general, are statements, like, “I’m not responsible for making sense out of God’s Word.” Is a math teacher not responsible for making sense out of the formula?

            I read the entire post. You allow yourself, as a teacher, to claim your own irresponsibility to biblical teaching. After all the beating around the bush, this is where you wound up.

            Your assumptions about me are alarming. Silly tenacity? Yikes. Where is your tenacity? Troll? Yikes. Trolls hide behind keyboards. I’ve challenged you to public debate, which you have declined. Stop sign? Yikes. You just erected the stop sign. Close-minded? Yikes. My mind is open to Yahweh’s teaching. I have it all figured out? Yikes. That is your assumption. I have never said that. Bizarre issues? Yikes. I’m giving you the opportunity to choose the Biblical issue we debate about, in public. I don’t really want to debate? Yikes. I’ve challenged you to debate.

            The verse you referenced is a weak defense and a typical bastion for teachers who are without teaching, in general. You see my attempt at debate as promoting division. You need to widen your vision. Truth, divides the hearts of men.

            Luke 12:51-53
            51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
            52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
            53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

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