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