Biblical Inerrancy, What Does is Really Mean?

I’m finding that Biblical skeptics have almost a complete misconception of what the Bible claims for itself.  This misconception is unspoken, but it is blatant.  What does the Bible being the “Word of God” mean?  Well, it means many things, but I’ll stick to one right now, accuracy.  The theological term for this idea is “Biblical inerrancy”.  Let’s first start with what Biblical inerrancy doesn’t mean.

Note:  For all you Biblical scholars out there, I know there is a debate between the terms “inerrancy” and “infallibility”.  Maybe someday I’ll post about the difference and explain why I’m on the side of inerrancy, but that day is not today.

Biblical Inerrancy Doesn’t Mean . . .

The Bible doesn’t have to be easy to understand.  The misconception is that if something is difficult for us to wrap our understanding around, then it must not be God’s Word.  While, in fact, the opposite is probably true.  If everything in the Bible was “easy” to understand then it wouldn’t really be about God would it?  So, when a critic comes across something difficult and shouts, “See, I don’t understand this therefore the Bible is wrong!”, we can either mock them for their assumption that God is bound by their understanding or educate them about how the Bible never claims to be easily understood.  Either one works just fine.

Not everything in the Biblical text has to “flow” or sound “harmonious” to our ears.  Biblical critics are quick to point out that the Bible was written in a different language yet forget this point when they expect the prose of a 1st century Greek  writer (in the case of the New Testament) to sound “good” to 21st century English ears.  Let me put it another way:  Our standards of recording events, or explaning concepts, doesn’t hold the Biblical writers in contempt.  Now, I’m obviously not a Greek scholar, so I can’t go into great detail about the writing standards of the 1st century, but the irrationality of crying foul on men who existed two thousand years ago just because their writings “sound weird” to us is obvious.  This leads me to my next point.

 . . . That the Bible Needs to Tell You Everything

For instance, if I assume that the Bible must “tell me everything” in order to be considered the Word of God and the goal of a Biblical author is to “tell you what happened”, then that means that the author should tell us everything that happened.  For instance, if I witnessed a speech and the speaker said, “I am from southern Spain” and “I am half Portugese and half Spanish”, I must tell you that he said both.

However, isn’t it perfectly acceptable to “tell you what happened” without implying that I’m telling you everything?  Without a disclaimer, can’t I just tell you that the speaker said “I am from southern Spain”, without telling you I’m leaving something out?  My goal of “telling you what happened” has been fulfilled, because I have never implied that I would be telling you everything.  This becomes especially true if I have a certain goal for what I’m writing, and if I have a particular audience in mind.  The particular event may have an aspect that speaks to my audience or accomplish’s my unstated goal, and the rest of the details are irrelevant to me. 

For instance, if I’m writing to a group of cultural scholars, I may just tell you the speaker said, “I am from southern Spain” and leave out the other statement because it is irrelevant to my audience.  Then, if I write to a group of racial scholars, I would only tell them that the speaker said, “I am half Portugese and half Spanish”, his geographic origin would be irrelevant to them. 

Let’s Apply This to Biblical Difficulties

For instance, regarding the death of Judas, Matthew (in 27:5) says, “. . . and he went away and hanged himself” while Luke (in Acts 1) says, ” . . .and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out.”  To 21st century English ears, our objection quickly becomes, “Hey!  You can’t have it both ways!”. 

However, we can easily attribute the differences in the record between Matthew and Luke to differences in purpose and audience.  Let’s say for a second that Judas hung himself, and then some time after, the branch or the rope broke and he fell into the field as Luke said he did, all his intestines spilling out.  This is certainly a plausible scenario.  So Matthew told you what happened and Luke told you what happened.  Neither of them claimed to tell you “everything”, in fact, neither of them claimed to be reporting Judas’ cause of death.

This becomes more likely as we consider that Luke was physician and would be more concerned with such medical details as what happened to Judas’ intestines.  Such details would be irrelevant to Matthew, as his focus was a Jewish audience; he told you that Judas hung himself, why say any more?  Also, Luke makes a point in naming the field that Judas fell into, calling it the field of blood, telling us that the field was bought with the money paid to Judas for betraying Jesus.  Luke is obviously attempting to point out the irony of such a fact, and give us a moral application for such irony.

Furthermore, obtaining and making copies of certain books was a very expensive process.  Everything had to be hand written so the scribe had to be paid for his skill and his labor, the papyrus was very expensive and hard to come by, and the transcribing would take a very long time, perhaps months.  These logistical facts would force the authors of the Bible into restricting their writings to what was absolutely necessary for their audiences to know.  And what early church group would put up the monetary sum to obtain a book that had a lot of erroneous information in it?

In conclusion:  Two people telling two different events that happened to the same person for two different purposes, restricting their accounts to what was absolutely necessary to tell, is no threat to Biblical inerrancy.  Especially since the two statements don’t violate the Law of Non-Contradiction. 

What Biblical Inerrancy IS.

Biblical inerrancy means that the Bible is completely true.  Every historical event it talks about happened, even if it doesn’t tell everything about the event, every moral law and theological truth it gives us is absolute, even if we can’t fully understand all of them, and every scientific fact is true, even if it doesn’t use 21st century scientific jargon.

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25 Comments on “Biblical Inerrancy, What Does is Really Mean?”


  1. My own take on the Bible as the Word of God will probably satisfy few. It is certainly not philosophically rigorous, but it has the huge advantage of being fruitful for me.
    Thomas Cranmer wrote a prayer for the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

    Blessed Lord, which hast caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn ,and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of Thy holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our savior, Jesus Christ

    And it strikes, I think, very much the right note. It leaves completely to one side the question of auricular inspiration, or the “two creation stories” in Genesis; it doesn’t care about minor variances in the accounts in the Gospels, it doesn’t even get exited about whether a particular tale in the early books reflect myth (maybe imported and adapted from another ancient civilization), or things that actually happened. Not even supposed changes in the LXX or selections for the canon are disheartening. The thing that matters most, and it matters supremely, is that the Bible as I have it has been caused by God to be written and edited, and preserved as a means by which He can communicate himself to me. It may have changed in it’s passage from oral tradition to sacred text. Stories may have been adapted and merged (or again, they may NOT have been!). But if so, that process was guided as sheep by a shepherd, until the ideas expressed were the ones God intended. Scholarship may well be interested in exactly who penned what words when, and why, but strictly speaking, those questions have no bearing on the Spiritual purpose of the Bible. By whatever means He did it, these texts are collectively the way God intended them to be.

    Why does it matter? Read in this light, I find the Bible a coherent, cohesive whole, with one meta-story and many supporting tales, even tales of a few dead-ends. The personality of God as lover of His creation, as a jilted wooer of an adulterous and faithless humanity, who ultimately makes a way to bridge the gap, and heal the rift, culminating in the “marriage of the Lamb” at the end of the Revelation. I can read it for my edification, and listen with the “ear of my heart” and find conviction and leading for the renewal of my mind. I don’t have to get bogged down in whether Jonah is “just a story” – if it is a story, it is a story God wants me to hear and understand.
    I am a child pulled onto his father’s lap – “Let me tell you a story…”

    But that requires that I have faith in the teller, At least for me, that didn’t start with the book. Reading the book in faith confirmed that faith and helps me understand it. William Whitaker, another of the English reformers, said that prayer was essential to properly understand the Bible.

    But the bigger question is why read it this way? The abstract, unreligious answer is that I must have a plumb line against which to measure my thoughts. If I do not have something solid, which I hold as authoritative, my thoughts are subject only to myself, and ultimately betray themselves as circular. If I hold my own reason up as the highest authority, I ultimately drift into nonsense. The more I read the Bible, the more appropriate it seems as that source of authority against which to measure my own soul.

    Blessings
    -Eric


  2. […] 13, 2009 by R. Eric Sawyer See Biblical inerrancy -what does it really mean? for a nicely […]

  3. Eric Kemp Says:

    Eric

    I must admit to you, that I am quite new to studying the Word of God in a theological, scholarly way. So I don’t have a full understanding of many of the terms used, so forgive me if I ask redundant questions.

    First, I want to say thank you for the encouragments and compliments regarding my writing. It means everything that God is allowing me some semblance of coherency.

    Secondly, as I am still very much in reasoning through the Biblical and spiritual implications of my theological studies, I have a question or two that are only intended to get your opinion on the matter.

    I agree completely with Cranmer, and I pray for something similar, though not as eloquently, every time I sit down to read Scripture.

    Regarding Cranmer’s prayer you say: “It leaves completely to one side the question of auricular inspiration, or the “two creation stories” in Genesis; it doesn’t care about minor variances in the accounts in the Gospels, it doesn’t even get exited about whether a particular tale in the early books reflect myth (maybe imported and adapted from another ancient civilization), or things that actually happened. Not even supposed changes in the LXX or selections for the canon are disheartening.”

    I agree with this also. Perceived small discrepencies about the historical nature/historicity/consistency of the Biblical accounts shouldn’t bring to doubt the entire message of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. However, in that phrase is also the rub and the question. Was not Christ’s death on the cross an actual event? Did not the author claim the crucifixion to be just as historical as the author of Jonah in that fish? If we allow ourselves to take Jonah figuratively even though the author claimed it as actual event, how then can we trust Christ as more than allegory? True, my entire faith doesn’t rest on Jonah actually getting eaten by a giant fish, but my faith does go both ways: if you prove to me Christ crucified, you’ve also proved Jonah swallowed.

    I also agree with you that my faith did not start with the Bible, the Bible confirmed my faith. And you spoke to the epistemelogical problem of circular reasoning that all secularists, and spiritualists, find themselves in. Very well done and I agree whole-heartedly.

    In Him


  4. Thanks Eric, as I hoped to make clear, I am not really fit to give a full analysis of the authority of the Bible in forms of either inerrancy or infallibility. I will deny neither of them, but my faith on the efficacy and Godly authority of Word written depends on neither.

    As you point out, the danger of taking any story figuratively is that removes a barrier to taking all stories figuratively. And as so you so importantly make clear, our faith hinges on an actual risen Christ, not a story about one.
    I don’t know if I can help that. My faith in the authority of this book rests in my experience of God through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. I believe it because, when I asked God if it were true, and that I wanted Him if that is what He was and willed, He came to me. The core was confirmed, then I more understood the other things the Bible speaks of, broadening to the entire book. I believed, then tasted the Bible and found it Good in that it reinforced what I had experienced in relationship. Then, like reading my wife’s biography, I understand her better and our relationship is strengthened. But I did not fall in love by reading her books! (she has published two, links handily on my site)
    If I become convinced of historical difficulties in the text (and I must confess, I do not believe in a young-earth special 6 day creation) then I know, not that the Bible is wrong, but that my understanding is incomplete –of course, it may be my understanding of paleontology and astrophysics that is limited, good money bet there!-
    I start with the idea that the Bible contains a range of types of literature, from story to detailed history. Like St. Luke examining to set in order the truth about these matters. I also don’t always have a clear sense as two which is which, and my apologetic suffers by that failure. But I also rely on the Holy Spirit guiding the Church in the development of the Canon (of course, that argument is meaningless to a non-believer). Thus, when St. John says in his first epistle that he saw, heard, and his hands handled the Word of Truth, that it means exactly that: Eyewitness account. This ain’t no novel. The same for St. Peter, and Paul’s description of the appearances of the risen Christ, as well as Luke’s. But again, these tellings are confirmed by relationship, not the relationship confirmed by appeal to the book. Scripture, and theology explain what is, they only rarely engender it. Which is why the simplest street-corner evangelist buttonholing strangers with a tract is doing more exalted work than the most learned theologian. One lead me to salvation, the other helped me to understand what that meant.

    What I fear in this argument about allowing the even the smallest idea of error is that we, by pressing the case farther than truth will support will find ourselves out on a limb which can be sawn off behind us. If we make the Resurrection stand on the same footing as the tower of Babel, then we have a hard time defending either one. We are limited to “it must be so, it’s in the Bible”

    Instead, I’ve suggested that if anyone is actually concerned about whether or not the Bible is true, they should take its own advice, and “taste and see.” He should ask with a desire to know the truth, and willingness to yield if convinced, “God, if things are true, I want to know you. Please lead me into the truth” I think that is a pretty firm place to start.

    Blessings!
    -R. Eric Sawyer

  5. Sirius Says:

    Eric Kemp,

    I believe you’re correct when you stated:

    “Let’s say for a second that Judas hung himself, and then some time after, the branch or the rope broke and he fell into the field as Luke said he did, all his intestines spilling out. This is certainly a plausible scenario.”

    I’ve always theorized that the rope or the tree itself snapped during the earthquake at Christ’s death. This, of course, presumes that Judas hung himself before that moment.

    @Eric Sawyer:

    Why do you presume that God needed to wait around for 21st century scientists to set His record straight? Surely you realize that the alleged “two creation stories” have been harmonized [the second being a fleshing out of the 1st], like the accounts of Judas Iscariot’s demise, and that without the extrabiblical hermeneutical considerations of uniformitarianism science the plain meaning of Scripture is that God created in six literal days, which is the basis of the 4th commandment [Exodus 20:8-11]? Ought we not judge the word of fallible, finite men, even if such men are making claims in the name of science, by the revealed Word of an infinite, infallible God – and not the other way ’round??

    We know in part, but we do know the part we’ve been told.

    I do not hold with this allegorizing of Scripture the moment that science [based on the flaws of naturalism, materialism and gradualism] contradicts it. Why strain at the gnat of a historical Babel or a literal 6-day Creation after swallowing the camel of Christ’s miracles, Godhead and literal Resurrection, which such science also disputes?? As Christ asked Nicodemus, “If I tell you physical things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you spiritual things?” If we can’t trust the revealed Word of God about what it tells us about the natural world, how are we to trust it’s supernatural claims?

    –Sirius Knott

  6. Angela Says:

    Genesis 3:1 _ Satan asks of Eve; “Did God really say?”…

    R. Eric Sawyer, Hi, can I ask please, when did you first see a discrepancy in the two Genesis accounts? When you first read those two chapters? Or did this come later?

    You see I have not encountered anyone who on first reading Genesis chapter 1, didn’t understand it to mean literal days. I have however found that some have been `later’ swayed by `mankind’s interpretation.’ This is the wrong way to read the bible, fallen man can not judge the wisdom of God. The right way is to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. So I ask, where throughout the Holy written word of God is any of this notion backed up and supported please?

    It’s a concern to see doubt in Gods word right at the very beginning of the Holy Bible, which is the very foundations that the rest of Scripture and the Gospel message is built upon. – If we take Adam out of the equation then we might as well take Jesus Christ out too, and while we’re at it just throw away the entire Holy Bible altogether! – Because you can’t have one without the other. Jesus came because of Adams sin! Its basic Gospel teaching. – Why did the world need a Saviour?

    For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, The Messiah Jesus Christ. -Romans 5:17

    No Other Gospel… I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. -Galatians 1:6-12

    Personally I have found in my studies that when God repeats himself it is to make us aware of something very important that we need to pay attention to. In Genesis chapter 1, God repeated the days at the closing of each event, it doesn’t just say `next God created’… He `categorically’ places the days in there, and each day individually as though to make a point… I believe this is significant. Also stating that what He created was `GOOD’ bares great significance too. And in witnessing this evolution propaganda going on, I believe it was, in part, for this very reason. In order to keep us grounded in what `God’ says.

    Evolution does not compliment Gods Holy scripture, it butchers and defiles it, attempts to make a mockery of God and His creation. There is no unison between Gods word and the evolution theory, it conflicts, and is the opposite of all that God teaches… So how then can God have used the evolutionary process to bring about creation? And still expect us to trust in His written word too? The two do not fit!… It’s confusion… I am not claiming that God couldn’t have used the evolutionary process had He chosen to, I am saying that Holy Scripture states that He didn’t. So we can conclude one is truth and the other is a lie. Now we just have to decide which one it is…

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” -John 1:1-5

    How does scripture say God created the world? He spoke it into being, right? Then for me I have to wonder why it took Him as long as 6 days.!?.. Do you believe the miracles Jesus performed actually occurred? – I believe in them and I believe Jesus revealed quite a lot to us through them. He spoke most of those miracles into being, and they happened instantaneously! .. He didn’t say: “I have healed you, and by a biological process in a (few months or a years time etc), you shall pick up your mat, rise and walk”… Do you see where I am going with this? If that was how He did them that would still be miraculous enough to us. BUT this is NOT how He reveals that He did it..!

    Jesus constantly referred back the Old Testament Scriptures, whereby validating them as being Gods word. Now Jesus being the very word of God in flesh, If there were discrepancies He would know, wouldn’t He? And pointed them out, as He did with the Pharisees twisting of scripture. Everything this world has tried to put under contention, Jesus has addressed in Scripture. e.g. Jonah as you mentioned, Adam, Creation, Noah, The Great flood, Moses.. to name but a few…

    We don’t have to try and speculate over these things, God has already provided the answers! Mankind can seem logical, but he is still only speculating, it is just a matter of each individuals opinion and the reasoning behind those speculations. We as Christians on the other hand have God to show us the truth. While mankind can never know how the world came into being, they can only hypothesise over scant scientific data that frankly can just as easily mean something else. We CAN know how it happened, as: JESUS CHRIST WAS THERE AT THE BEGINNING OF CREATION! mankind was not! So what did Jesus have to say about this? Does He leave room for gaps and evolution, and all other possible scenarios? .. No, I don’t believe He did. Does this then leave room to add in our own interpretation? No, as we’re repeatedly warned throughout the scriptures!

    You shall NOT add to the Word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you. – Deuteronomy 4:2

    To start throwing out and altering scripture, is to leave nothing for future generations. It is not ours that we should change it. It is Gods! It is a lamp to guide the steps of His children…

    “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” – Psalm 119:105

    And to judge the hearts of men.

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews -4:12

    GOD IS UN-CHANGING – “For I am the Lord, I change not” -Malachi 3:6 … God is not the author of confusion, He doesn’t change and neither does His word. That’s why we know we can trust in Him… Does this mean God’s word as written in scripture is unchanging with the times? And we need to adapt it to fit it into our new understandings? No!.. As we know God said never to add or take away from His word. So what is it that needs to change, if anything? Well lets take a look at our world, is it any different? Technology wise, of course, yes, but this world still has the same problems its always had. While evolution may appear like an advancement, (though everything about it screams Devolution) its just another form of idolatry. Read the following scripture, does it fit with our society today?

    Romans 1:18-32 – The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

    Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

    Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” —2 Timothy 3:16-17

    “Every Word of God is Pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6

    “Be still, and know that I am God: I WILL be exalted among the heathen, I WILL be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

    R. Eric Sawyer, if you or anyone else reading this for that matter, wish to dispute anything I have said then I have to respectfully ask you to use scripture to back up all your claims. As this is a biblical matter. No offence is intended when I say that your personal opinion in interpreting scripture will not suffice, you are fallen man from a fallen world. Saved in Christ perhaps, but still living in your flesh.

    I have some links to share to articles on this discussion. I will post them in a separate post in case links are not permitted here. My hope is you will be able to give them consideration, with my prayer that they help guide and strengthen you in our Lord and His written word.

    God bless you and yours
    In Christ, Angela

  7. Angela Says:

    Hi regarding those links I am unable to post them here. So I’ve posted them onto one of my pages. If you click on my link it should take you there.

    JESUS CHRIST – ON THE INFALLIBILITY OF SCRIPTURE:

    and down to

    CREATION COMPROMISES:

    There are then a couple of more links after, containing lists to more articles.

    God Bless

  8. Angela Says:

    Ah, I see, my website doesn’t show up as a link, you have to click on my name when you see it show up orange. – Learn something new everyday, yep…

  9. dwilli58 Says:

    We don’t have to try and speculate over these things, God has already provided the answers! Mankind can seem logical, but he is still only speculating, it is just a matter of each individuals opinion and the reasoning behind those speculations. We as Christians on the other hand have God to show us the truth.

    While mankind can never know how the world came into being, they can only hypothesise over scant scientific data that frankly can just as easily mean something else. We CAN know how it happened, as: JESUS CHRIST WAS THERE AT THE BEGINNING OF CREATION! mankind was not! So what did Jesus have to say about this? Does He leave room for gaps and evolution, and all other possible scenarios? .. No, I don’t believe He did. Does this then leave room to add in our own interpretation? No, as we’re repeatedly warned throughout the scriptures!

    Amen, Angela! It is by faith alone that we know God spoke everything into existence, including us, through His Son, the Logos!


  10. Angela, it may turn out that you and I have differences, but I think that they are not the ones you suppose. I apologize for not being more clear. I, along with you, affirm the Divine authorship of the canonical books of Holy Scripture. I receive them as God’s Word, written, and with full authority and power to accomplish everything for which He sent it forth – it does not return to Him void, as an empty echo. I think I believe you in everything you stated. I know I affirm everything you quoted, although I hate to use that phrase. It is not for me to “affirm” scripture. It is rather for me to sit underneath the word to be affirmed (or not!), informed, convicted, broken and restored through it.

    I do not personally have any difficulty with the supposed “2 creations” problem in Genesis. My aim is not to express difficulties, but rather to show that any supposed difficulties are a red herring. They are irrelevant to hearing God speak authoritatively through the Bible. Many, perhaps most who cite them are not so much concerned about truth, and God’s word, as they are concerned about finding an excuse not to listen to Him. I am put in mind of a child, pulled up on his father’s lap. “Let me tell you a story…”
    Let’s say it is a good story with a moral point, maybe something from Aesop. Later on, when the child wants to do something in violation of that moral point, he justifies it on the grounds that

    “well, Daddy told me that foxes can talk, too! At least they did in the story. Those stories aren’t true, I can take this if I want it!”

    I think that this may bring us to the one difficulty you and I may have, and although I don’t think it important, you very well may. I think that some of the accounts in the earlier parts of the Bible are probably in that class of story. Not that they aren’t authoritative. If they are stories, they are stories picked by God, created over years by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and profitable to do all things for which God sent them forth. He intends me to “read, learn, mark and inwardly digest” them, If stories, then they are stories selected particularly and personally by my Father to convey the truth He so deeply wishes me to understand. I need to listen, and hear His voice.

    Of course, they may be all line for line accurate in every historical particular. I don’t know. The principal I will fight for is that, at the end of the day, when we “know as we are known” we will look at it all and say “it’s all been as you said!” perhaps adding in wonder and amazement “so THAT is what it meant!”

    I remember how wrong the religious folks often were leading up to Jesus. From our side, we see Him constantly and consistently through the OT. From their side, they were looking (for the most part) in entirely different directions. I have very little doubt that much of my so-called understanding will be blown to bits when I actually stand before the throne and the Lamb. But I also know (and rejoice in that knowledge) that my future stands on, and my trust is in, the Word of God; not my understanding of the Word of God.

    Blessings!
    -R. Eric Sawyer

  11. Angela Says:

    R. Eric Sawyer, Hello, thank you for your reply. I have to confess you have me quite confused. Can you explain what you meant by this in your quote below, the bold text especially please?

    “If I become convinced of historical difficulties in the text (and I must confess, I do not believe in a young-earth special 6 day creation) then I know, not that the Bible is wrong, but that my understanding is incomplete –of course, it may be my understanding of paleontology and astrophysics that is limited, good money bet there!”

    AMEN! dwilli58

    God Bless…

  12. Eric Kemp Says:

    Angela

    Your link is showing up just fine. I will definetly take the time to peruse some of those articles when I have it! Thanks for the references.

  13. Eric Kemp Says:

    Dave

    That’s exactly the crux of the issue. Do you first assume the ultimacy of the human mind? Or the ultimacy of God’s Word?

  14. Angela Says:

    R. Eric Sawyer, just to pick up on something you said here in the quote below

    “I remember how wrong the religious folks often were leading up to Jesus. From our side, we see Him constantly and consistently through the OT. From their side, they were looking (for the most part) in entirely different directions.”

    The `Holy’ Scripture writings were and never have been in contention. Reading through the whole of the Holy Bible we see this, the only problems we see is `man’s’ struggle with sin, and the trouble he has in paying attention to what God has said and had written down. Reflecting just how wayward and rebellious we are.

    Problems arose in the past as they still do today, when those in power abused their position by adding extra laws or laxed in adhering to the laws Gods had set down. As we read with the extra laws the Pharisees added. And the mixing in with other pagan cultural beliefs that we also read about that many of the Kings were guilty of. Essentially nothing new even by today standards, even AFTER our LORD Jesus the Christ has been and given us such a precious gift. – Sinful man STILL today will twists Gods words to fit `his’ understanding, due to his fleshy desires and itchy ears. Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks a lot about these things, while at the same time TOTALLY backing up Gods HOLY scripture. He sheds light on the comparison of Gods word and man’s lack of sticking to it and why that is. As we can read in the New Testament. The Bible is not just a story book, it is HOLY


  15. Sure, I’ll give it a go, although I doubt that you will be completely happy with my answer.
    Given the state of scientific inquiry (and my training goes that direction, although not in the appropriate scientific fields) I think it quite likely that the earth was not created in six 24 hour periods approximately 6000 years ago. It may have been, but I think it unlikely.

    But let’s imagine that the issue was proven for me beyond all doubt. Say, a video tape of the whole thing turned up, showing a something billion-year process starting with a “big bang”. Would that mean that the Genesis account was thereby discredited? By no means! God’s word stands, and any lessons I can derive from Genesis properly interpreted also stand; for instance,

    “In the beginning, God created…”

    God is therefore without antecedents, prior conditions or causes. Having no antecedent conditions, creation is thus an overflowing of God’s nature, compelled by no need. This makes it an act of love. Further, if God were unity only, it would be driven by a need for something to love, but (as we reject the idea of “need” in God) love overflowing from ongoing love, the idea of God as a plural unity, or Trinity is supported. There is an ongoing relationship of love existing not in theory but in fact, between persons, for all time and even before time, before anything was made.

    This comes from the first 5 words, whether the VCR would have recorded the creative method as described in Genesis, or if it a simplified story-version so that I can understand the bigger point.

    When the physical, observable facts are in collision with the Bible, there are several options:
    1- I don’t understand the physical facts.
    2- I don’t understand the Bible, and am reading in something it doesn’t say
    3- both.
    One thing that is NOT an option is to say that the Bible is thus superseded.

    I need to be very careful that in my veneration of the Bible as the Word of God, I do not cross the line to thinking that “my understanding” of the Bible is the Word of God.
    Those are two very very different things.

  16. Angela Says:

    Oh dear I see one or two spelling errors and grammar faux pas, please excuse I had to go out and I was in a bit of a rush.

    Eric Kemp, Hi, I was meaning the links for the other Eric, but they are good articles, I think anyway. So I hope you will enjoy them too. 🙂 I have to say I am really enjoying your blogs here, they’re very thought provoking, and insightful, thank you.

    God bless you and yours and your ministry here
    In Christ – Angela

    p.s.
    Can anyone tell me how you put those quotes in box’s please?


  17. Angela, what I was thinking about were the folks who very properly saw in the law and the prophets that the “Day of the Lord” was coming, that Israel had been guilty, and would be cleansed, that without the help of God, there is no help. But even so, there were those who missed that He would be a suffering servant, and God would be God’s own sacrifice poured out for us and for our salvation. They were expecting the Messiah to be something other than what they saw. Some were humble enough to lay down their own “understanding” and see Jesus. I think John the Baptist was such – “…are you the One who is to come, or should we look for another?” Others may have found it too hard to adjust, too hard to lay down their “theology” for the truth. I rather expect there were at least some sincere folks among the Pharisees who took this road to their downfall.

    Again, God is Truth and Light, in whom there is no darkness.
    my thoughts about God, and my theology, are not.

    But you are certainly right in that the problems in the days of Moses, of David, of the captivity and restoration, in all days spring from the same root as the problems of today, that being the sinfulness of the human heart, and we twist God’s word to fit what we want to hear. Earlier, someone aptly made the point that scripture must interpret scripture, meaning at least to my understanding, that no passage may be interpreted in such a way as to invalidate another. If it seems to do so, then I have not yet understood them rightly. The underlying principal is that Truth cannot violate Truth. Since we hold the Bible as true, it cannot violate itself.

    My overall point is that reality is by definition true. My understanding is not.
    I hold the Bible as true, as I have said. Where physical data seem to contradict, I cannot take the easy way out and say that the Bible is wrong. Nor can I say that the physical data is wrong. Truth cannot violate truth, and all truth from any source is from God. There is no other source of truth.
    If my understanding of Truth in God’s word says “A”
    and my understanding of truth in the physical world says “not A”
    then what is obviously at fault is not God’s word, and it is not the physical world.
    The flaw is in me, and my understanding.

    This world wants to declare the fault to be in the Bible, as we prefer to lean on our own understanding.
    Some would declare the Bible to be right, but the physical world wrong. I fear that also is because our fallen race prefers anything besides “lean not on your own understanding”.
    But as with almost everything else, the fault is with me, the sin is mine, the blindness is in our hearts.
    We don’t wish to reconcile truth with truth, we wish to reconcile our ideas about truth with some facts, and throw away any that pose a threat to our own understanding. We (Christian or not, almost all fallen men) almost never want to own that the failure is in me.
    And that fact is just about at the heart of the Gospel.

    -Blessings!
    R. Eric Sawyer


  18. Those quote boxes are called “blockquotes” in HTML, and are one of the few HTML codes allowed.
    To make them, at the start of your text, use the “Less than” sign ()
    then type your quote.
    next, you have to end the blockquote by typing
    “Less than sign”/blockquote”Greater than sign”

    Same thing at start and finish,but add the foreward slash / before the word blockquote. This is called and end tag.

    I can’t actually type it out, or it would do the action. but I think you can decipher.

    Or wait! I think if I don’t close the tag, you may see it.
    To END a quote,
    to START a quote

    (Put the start on first, then text, then close)
    hope that shows up, and thank you for the discussion!

  19. Eric Kemp Says:

    Eric Sawyer

    I have a question for you that I would be very interested to hear your thoughts about.

    You say: “Given the state of scientific inquiry (and my training goes that direction, although not in the appropriate scientific fields) I think it quite likely that the earth was not created in six 24 hour periods approximately 6000 years ago. It may have been, but I think it unlikely.”

    While the state of scientific inquiry in regards to the beginning of life may be a bit shaky (since it happened 6k or billions of years ago and no one was there), scientific inquiry about death is pretty clear. That is, every single human experience we’ve ever had, and every single scientific experiment done, shows that death is final. Dead is dead. So why then do you believe in Christ’s Resurrection? What I mean is, if you find young earth creation to be “unlikely” due to modern science, why do you find someone coming back from the dead as more likely?

    Another way to put it. You are, admittedly, putting the knowledge of modern science upon the Biblical narrative of Genesis. Why do you then not put the knowledge of modern science upon the Gospels? Why only Genesis?


  20. Eric, first thank you for fostering this discussion; and for your faithfulness and civility (and that of all) even in the midst of disagreement.
    You raise an excellent point in regard to the resurrection. I absolutely affirm the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus in the body, as still fully man and fully God. I hold it as a point not subject to challenge.
    As a start, I will take the unwise path of referring back to my first (and obviously inadequate) attempt to answer that question, taken from my second post to this thread:

    As you point out, the danger of taking any story figuratively is that removes a barrier to taking all stories figuratively. And as so you so importantly make clear, our faith hinges on an actual risen Christ, not a story about one.
    I don’t know if I can help that. My faith in the authority of this book rests in my experience of God through Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. I believe it because, when I asked God if it were true, and that I wanted Him if that is what He was and willed, He came to me. The core was confirmed, then I more understood the other things the Bible speaks of, broadening to the entire book. I believed, then tasted the Bible and found it Good in that it reinforced what I had experienced in relationship. Then, like reading my wife’s biography, I understand her better and our relationship is strengthened. But I did not fall in love by reading her books!

    Eric, I think that the best way to amplify would be to say that there is no authoritative magic answer. Jesus so often gave somewhat cryptic responses to people, saying I think that the answers to life’s big questions are not something you can take notes about, refer back to them and consider the problem solved. It isn’t “I will show you the way, tell you of the truth, lead you into the light”
    He said “I AM the way, the truth and the life…” always driving us back to Himself.
    I think this was the largest place the Pharisees got off track. They thought that by having the law, they had righteousness codified. Growing in righteousness consisted of more and more excellent adherence to it, and to all the corollaries they could invent. They missed that the law was not God, it was to show the Character of God, and to serve to lead us back to Him. It’s all about relationship.

    Why do I believe the resurrection? I believe first, that these accounts are not made up stories, but are historical accounts. I believe that from the Narrative itself. Job begins with “There once was a man…” Almost “once upon a time”
    Luke begins with
    “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
    A very different style!
    But then, building upon it, the rest of the NT proclaims these things to be true. Paul speaks of how awful it would be to have only a figurative resurrection. John talks of that which “we have seen, and our hands handled…” The rest of the authors outside of Luke go to great pains to be clear that they are talking about real events.
    OK, but why should I believe THEM?
    Because if I do, the whole story hangs together. If I do not, the story falls to pieces.
    Christianity will not work on a symbolic level. Judaism will, but if we are to believe the epistle to the Hebrews, in Jesus we have the real deal to which all those symbols point. You have to accept it as literally true, or throw it all away. It won’t work as symbol. So I believe it because it fits.

    Lastly, I believe it because of relationship. Having heard these things, and experiencing conviction because of them, I yielded to God through the risen Christ. I don’t believe because of experience, feelings can be fooled. But I believe because my experience of God through the Holy Spirit bears witness to the risen Christ and his work, and squares with and confirms what I understand through His Holy Scriptures. When I placed my intellect and emotion, reason and heart, before the Lord, He confirmed His word, and has given me back these gifts to be used under His banner (sort of like a knight presenting his liege his sword, and having it returned to him to use in his lord’s service)

    How does this differ from the way I take other parts of the Bible? Very little.
    I affirm them all inspired by God, and profitable…
    But my understanding of them as authoritative does not rest on an assertion that “They MUST be true, they’re in the Bible!” I think such an approach is often an attempt to defend the Gospel against “figurativizing” it away. Laudable, but ineffective, as those with itching ears will disbelieve or twist and corrupt as they will, regardless of how much hedge we build around it.
    The truth of God will always be known by those who desire to know it. “Those who desire the truth will know of the doctrine…”

    Relationship is the key; Christ is the doorway, whose relationship we need, and the Kingdom of Heaven, now and in the age to come, is the promise.

    -Blessings


  21. And Angela, did I ever torture that explaination of a blockquote!! so sorry!

    “less than”BLOCKQUOTE”greater than”

    Text you want to quote

    “less than”/BLOCKQUOTE”greater than”

    SHEESH!

  22. Eric Kemp Says:

    Eric Sawyer

    “Eric, first thank you for fostering this discussion; and for your faithfulness and civility (and that of all) even in the midst of disagreement.”

    Well, thank you for your kind words.

    “I absolutely affirm the physical resurrection of our Lord Jesus in the body, as still fully man and fully God. I hold it as a point not subject to challenge.”

    I hope you know that I wasn’t questioning this point of belief.

    “As a start, I will take the unwise path of referring back to my first (and obviously inadequate) attempt to answer that question, taken from my second post to this thread:”

    I must admit, that sometimes threads get away from me. Conversations that I mean to keep going slip my mind as other concerns in life or this blog make me forget. And then, when I return to the subject, or the very same thread, with the same person, I repeat assertions or questions. I apologize for either not responding to your previous point or forgetting that I had done so. But, since it’s on both our minds now, we can continue.

    Before I respond to some of the points you made, I want to say; amen brother. I wholeheartedly agree with our reasons for belief and for the restoring and knowledge giving power of the Holy Spirit. We don’t believe because the Bible is a good book, or even because the Bible is true, we believe because we had a personal, relational experience with God, which told us that the Bible is true. And we continue to have those experiences.

    I also hope and pray you see that everything I say to you comes from kindness and a sincere to heart to help and spur you on for good works in our Lord Jesus Christ.

    “As you point out, the danger of taking any story figuratively is that removes a barrier to taking all stories figuratively.”

    I want to clarify. It’s not so much that everything in the Bible must be taken literally; poetry, allegory, parable, metaphor and simile are all literary tools used by the writers, and even Christ Himself. It’s just that we must have a literary reason for doing so. I’m sure you agree that we can’t arbitrarily choose which is which without a solid Scriptural reason for doing so. As I’m sure your familiar, this kind of tactic leads to eisegesis. Instead, we should allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. Unless Scripture tells us that it’s poetry, allegory ect. then we should take it literally, because Scripture means it literally. That’s what I mean.

    “Eric, I think that the best way to amplify would be to say that there is no authoritative magic answer. Jesus so often gave somewhat cryptic responses to people…”

    Again, Eric, I want to say that I agree with you. I know that if we think we must be able to logically prove every doctrine and teaching of the Bible we will soon find ourselves frustrated and without faith. However:

    Does Scripture itself tell you there is no answer to the creation question? If not, then you must search for the source of that idea. My position is that since no writer tells us explicitly that we can or cannot know the answer to this question, we must search the Scriptures themselves, without outside influence, without eisegesis, to see what Scripture says about God’s creative work.

    Again, I hope you see that I am only trying to sincerely help here. Through out your comment, you make two attempts to answer my question, “Why not the Gospels?”. The quote above is one of them. Unfortunately, the Bible never says there isn’t an authoritative answer, so your position here is absent of Scriptural influence.

    “Why do I believe the resurrection? I believe first, that these accounts are not made up stories, but are historical accounts. I believe that from the Narrative itself. Job begins with “There once was a man…” Almost “once upon a time” “

    This is the other time you attempt to answer my question. For the same reason you believe the Gospels, “historical accounts”, I believe Genesis. A plain reading of Genesis, without outside influence, reads like a historical narrative. Complete with chronological statements with time periods called “days” attached to them. There isn’t even any room in the original language to call “days” anything other than a 24 hour period. Indeed, the context of the Hebrew is clear.

    In fact, this is my entire point Eric. I agree with you, a plain reading of the Gospels, Luke the historian especially, reads like a historical account. But so does Genesis. In fact, the only way we are able to take Genesis any other way is if we interpret in the light of modern science. So again, my question is, why interpret Genesis in the light of modern science but not the Gospels? Why is God bound by scientific discovery during creation but not bound to it when a human being walks on water, or rises from the dead?

    I agree that the Gospels situate you in a narrative that is being told. What I hope you see is that this does not merely start with the NT. The story of Jesus Christ does not start with His birth as a man. It starts in Genesis 1:1. Why did Christ come? Because humanity needed a savior. Why does humanity need a savior? Because Adam sinned. God called His Creation “very good” before Adam sinned. Paul tells us “the wages of sin is death”. Adam brought death to God’s “very good” Creation. This is the doctrine of original sin, and this is why we need a savior, why Jesus came in the first place. However, if death existed hundreds of millions of years before man came along, as the evolutionary worldview tells us, than this doctrine is erroneous and Paul is wrong. The wages of sin isn’t death in any literal sense, and Adam didn’t bring death into the world, death existed millions of years before Adam. How can God call His creation “very good” when death and suffering already existed before His creation was complete? Hope you see that the narrative of Jesus Christ is rendered pointless without a plain reading of Genesis.

    Like you said, “OK, but why should I believe THEM (talking about the Gospel writers)? Because if I do, the whole story hangs together. If I do not, the story falls to pieces. Christianity will not work on a symbolic level.” This is also true of the Old Testament and the necessity of Christ. Christianity begins at Genesis 1:1.

    Eric, I exhort you, hold fast to your relationship with Jesus Christ, walk in the Spirit, be renewed in the spirit of your mind continually. But don’t allow yourself to use the idea of “relationship” to be put higher than the truth of God’s Word. Put away all influence when reading both the NT and the OT alike; allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about the plain truth of Genesis. So far, you have merely chosen to look at Genesis differently than you look at the Gospels. Search the Spirit for why you have done so, I guarantee you He did not lead you in this direction. The Biblical narrative as a whole surely did not.

    “But my understanding of them as authoritative does not rest on an assertion that “They MUST be true, they’re in the Bible!” I think such an approach is often an attempt to defend the Gospel against “figurativizing” it away.”

    So is the Bible inerrant or just infallible?

  23. Angela Says:

    R. Eric Sawyer, First off let me just say, it is so refreshing to be able to actually have a proper discussion about this subject in a civil manner. All too often this isn’t the case. So thank you. And thank you for the quote box help, I appreciate it. I’ll go back and try and figure that out a later. – Right then onto what we were discussing.

    It’s irrelevant what I like or don’t like, this is a bible study and I am interested in what you have to say given that you agreed with Eric Kemps post; that Gods Word was Inerrant. BUT then you went on to say why you have doubts in its validity in certain areas. – I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I think you are forgetting who GOD is and limiting Him to mans knowledge. I was next going to ask you about the miracle’s Jesus performed but I see Eric covered this area with his question, and very well too I might add.

    But just to clarify, let me ask. -Do you believe the miracle’s Jesus our Christ performed are an actual Holy Divine Supernatural occurrence and therefore can NOT be tested or explained or understood, by mankind’s limited and fallen science/knowledge?

    Could you answer these questions for me please? A simple yes or no answer will suffice.

    1. Adam, did he live on this earth? Until his 930 years, as stated in the Holy Scriptures?
    2a. Is the great flood of Noah’s time a real and actual occurrence?
    2b. Was it a world wide flood?
    4. As scripture states we can trace Jesus genealogy right back to Adam. – Do you believe this to be true?
    5. Do you believe sin entered the world through Adam’s rebellion?
    6. Do you believe Adam to be the first man created by God?
    7. Is God all powerful?
    8. Is Gods ways likened to mans?
    9. Is God restricted by the things man is restricted by?
    10. Is God Supernatural?
    11. Is God Holy?
    12. Does Satan, (murderer and father of lies) Exist?

    If your answer is no to any of the above I would ask you to please show me using scripture why this is.

    “Some would declare the Bible to be right, but the physical world wrong.”

    Most certainly, and I would be one of them! -When the physical (earthly) attempts to explain away the power of the Supernatural, and fit Him within the bound of our physical world. –God isn’t a lowly Human being. His ways are not ours! ..Quite the opposite! In fact a lot of what God teaches and what we come to discover is the opposite to what we would have imagined or expect. I could reel off quite a long list. And may do so in another post.

    “When the physical, observable facts are in collision with the Bible, there are several options:
    1- I don’t understand the physical facts.
    2- I don’t understand the Bible, and am reading in something it doesn’t say
    3- both.”

    Jesus says, “If I tell you physical things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you spiritual things?” John 3:12

    To get a better understanding of that scripture read it in its full context -John 3

    “I need to be very careful that in my veneration of the Bible as the Word of God, I do not cross the line to thinking that “my understanding” of the Bible is the Word of God.
    Those are two very very different things”.

    It isn’t what God is saying that is the problem, it is your dismissal of what He is saying that is causing the problems. What He says is quite clear and simple enough. A child could understand it!.. God says six days, you say… “Good LORD, you can not be serious!” …
    And why is that do you suppose? -You’re as Job, thinking to question God on how He goes about doing what He does, HIS WAY!. .. Jesus didn’t need a boat, HE WALKED ON WATER..! .. His water, His creation, His science!
    I fear that also is because our fallen race prefers anything besides “lean not on your own understanding”.

    Yes, I saw your little dig there, and its not the first time either, but I understand and I will be addressing this in another post, when we get onto the subject of evolution a little more in-depth. So you can mock all you like, it’s nothing to me. In fact it is an honour to be mocked in the name of our LORD! .. A Christian can expect these things and far worse besides. Look what the world did to Jesus! .. Every other word out of his mouth was to bare witness to Gods written word. And look what the disciples went through too! And look what millions upon millions of Christians have gone through throughout the ages! And will continue to do so until this world is over, when Jesus returns! And what is their crime?… Defending Gods word. … Why does it have this effect on people?

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews -4:12

    Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. -Proverbs 3:5-8

    Our Lord Jesus Christ says:

    And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. -Matthew 10:22

    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. -John 15:19

    “I affirm them all inspired by God, and profitable…
    But my understanding of them as authoritative does not rest on an assertion that “They MUST be true, they’re in the Bible!” I think such an approach is often an attempt to defend the Gospel against “figurativizing” it away. Laudable, but ineffective, as those with itching ears will disbelieve or twist and corrupt as they will, regardless of how much hedge we build around it.”

    There you go again, saying one thing, only to then say the opposite in the same breath (paragraph). – Please could you answer me this question. Are the scriptures contained in the Bible HOLY?

    The truth of God will always be known by those who desire to know it. “Those who desire the truth will know of the doctrine…”

    I agree, and how do we know what that is exactly?

    Relationship is the key; Christ is the doorway, whose relationship we need, and the Kingdom of Heaven, now and in the age to come, is the promise.

    And how do we go about forming that relationships?

    I have asked you quite a few questions in this post, please would you take the time to answer them, a simple yes or no answers will suffice.

    Just out of curiosity, are you a Roman Catholic?

    God bless
    In Christ, Angela


  24. Angela, just to start at the wrong end, no I am not RC.
    My roots are Southern Baptist, but some 30 years ago, I understood God calling me into the Episcopal Church. As you may know, we in the this part of the Body are currently in great distress, largely over issues we are touching on here; namely the authority of the Holy Scriptures, primarily manifested right now as a dispute over homosexuality, but often touching on things much more centrals. Doctrines such as the virgin birth, the atonement by the blood of Christ, the name of Jesus being the only name for our salvation, even the physical resurrection have been publicly doubted by some in high leadership positions. Their heresy is a great scandal to many parts of our wider Anglican communion, and many other provinces now see us as a mission field, and are planting churches. A formal schism is not far away in the wings.
    I have no particular office or influence other than as a praying ordinary layman, but a quick google search on “R. Eric Sawyer” (the first initial is important!) will point to some of my role in the blogosphere around this community. The irony in respect to this thread is that I am more often cast as the knee-jerk reactionary defender of orthodox Christian understanding, and here, I think I’m seen more as the liberal on the ledge of falling off entirely.

    I have lately been thinking of my place in the church as being something of a “reformation Anglican” understanding our faith largely through the teaching of the English reformers, for whom Holy Scripture, read under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, was paramount.
    =======
    By my reference to leaning on one’s own understanding, I do mean a dig, but not necessarily a personal one. I think many of us vastly prefer our own understanding to truth. It is particularly the natural sin of all who have strong opinions, and perhaps of all who are called to do battle in this arena. I am among those at risk, and often at fault.
    A strictly private understanding of judgment (to open another can of worms) involves the need for me to drop all of MY understandings, to be united with the living Truth in the kingdom –fuller notes over on my site.
    I wish to imply no disrespect for anyone in this discussion, and if the shoe does not fit (it fits me more often than I wish!), I have no desire to force it on.

    I will address some of your questions, and Eric’s but in no particular order.

    I avoid the terms inerrant and infallible, because I think they often are code words with meanings carried with them deeper than the simple word itself.

    My understanding of the Bible is that it is indeed Holy, inspired by God in its entirety, prepared by Him and sufficient for all the purposes for which He sent it forth. I don’t go past that.
    I do believe that it holds one coherent story from start to end, and is also profitably used of God in individual verses. It is to be read under prayer, and with the expectancy of a transformative encounter with God.

    The truth of God will always be known by those who desire to know it. “Those who desire the truth will know of the doctrine…”
    I agree, and how do we know what that is exactly?
    We know by the Word of God, our understanding supported by the voice of other Christians both now and in the past, and confirmed by our experience when we yield to it.
    Relationship is the key; Christ is the doorway, whose relationship we need, and the Kingdom of Heaven, now and in the age to come, is the promise.
    “And how do we go about forming that relationships?”
    These things you know: “all who come to me I will in no wise cast out…” “believe on the Lord Jesus…” believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth…”
    My coming to a saving faith was through a street evangelist who got me to see that my security did not rest upon my feeling of being secure, but on the truth of the Holy Word. I am radically committed to that position.
    I thoroughly accept the teaching that God is “outside” this material universe, (although inside as well), and not bound by it. He is able to reach in at His good pleasure and do that which seems good to Him to do. These interventions are miracles, and the Bible, OT and NT, as well as the continuing life of the people of God, are full of them. I see no reason to doubt them.
    But going back to the issue, the supposed “doubt” in any case would have nothing to do with “could God have done this?” the answer to that is Yes, if it is consistent with who He knows Himself to be. –and that is not subject to my opinion!
    Angela, you say that you are one who would declare the Bible right, and the physical world wrong. I wonder if I was quite clear.
    The Bible says Jesus was born of a virgin. If I say that the “Physical Laws” say that is not possible, so it did not happen, then you would be right to insist on the Bible. God is not bound by physical laws.
    That is not what I mean. Instead, I am speaking of a situation when the observed facts, not just principals, are confirmed, then those facts are true, and as true as anything else we mark as true. I may question the accuracy of my observation, but if it is fact, it is fact. I can not reject it without saying that truth is not truth. That is a very bad habit.

    So, if I should have two truths in seeming conflict, one scriptural, and one observed, the only thing I can doubt is my own understanding. They do fit together somehow, truth cannot negate truth; it is my understanding that is straw. That is really all I am arguing for. Over here on my side of the house, many of the people I speak with want to resolve the problem by saying that Biblical knowledge has been superseded by our newer understanding. I reject that. If someone says, though, that “I don’t care that your telescope shows craters on Jupiter! The Bible says that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’ and so I know that the planets are perfect!” well, I reject that too. And you know, that was a position taken at one time. The image through the telescope was not false, it was fact. the verse about the heavens is not false. Our understanding was faulty. That is the sum and center of my argument. Not that the Bible is wrong, it is not. for me, it is not even subject to my declaration of being wrong or right. It is the Holy Word of God, addressed to me, for me. (and the same for all of us)
    But I need to always, always read in humility, asking like Mary “How can these things be?” where I sense conflict. The fault is always in me and my understanding. Absolutely never in the Holy Scripture.

    The answer to your twelve questions is yes (except for #8, which I think you mean Are God’s ways like unto those of man? and the answer is “My ways are not your ways…”; and #9 God has no restrictions, other than those He chooses for Himself)
    Some of them, I cannot reconcile with the facts in the rocks. But I believe that at the end of the day, either the facts in the rocks will be shown to be different than I think, or that my understanding of God’s word is flawed. At the end of time, we will know it all to be true, but maybe different than I suspect. My “YES” is therefore qualified, in that I am unsure in some cases (2b for example) Others, say #4, I believe it true, and at the same time do not understand it. But the Word trumps my lack of understanding.

    Well, back to work!

    -Blessings
    R. Eric Sawyer


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