For years I’ve lived in fear of this blog post. I knew it was coming. I knew that I needed to share with you this struggle. But I was afraid of the result. Mainly, what will you think of me when you’re done reading? Will I lose Twitter followers? Will I lose Facebook friends? Will the publisher I work for decide not to publish my book? Will I lose sales of my book because people will pick it up and say, “Oh, that’s the guy that struggles with trusting the Bible”?
But I don’t really care about that anymore. Not because I don’t want to sell books, have Twitter followers, or interact with people on Facebook – of course I want that! But I don’t care anymore because this question is becoming more and more important. I sat through a conference with David Kinnaman recently, and he was sharing Barna’s recent findings that the next generation is struggling with some pretty epic questions -- questions that the church doesn’t seem to answer very well. He told us a story about a young female producer he met from NPR. They were talking through the interview that Kinnaman was about to have on air, and she made a very insightful comment. She said, “Christianity doesn’t seem to answer complicated questions in a deep, thoughtful, or challenging way.”
Kinnaman went on to talk about how the next generation is leaving the church because they don’t feel like the church tackles big questions. Or maybe a better way to say it is that the next generation feels like the church “tackles” big questions and doesn’t answer them. One of the questions he mentioned was about the Bible. There are thousands of young adults and teenagers leaving the church because they struggle with the accuracy and dependability of the Bible.
That’s why I’m writing this post. Because the next generation needs someone to step up and admit to a lack of confidence in Scripture. Not to bring about a skepticism of the ancient writings, but to begin the conversation. So that’s what I’m trying to do with this post – I’m beginning the conversation.
I struggle with trusting the Bible as the WORD of God.
In order to find the answer to this dilemma, I think we have to first examine the spectrum. On one side there are the “Inerrants.” For a long time I was an Inerrant. I believed – like most people – that the Bible is THE error-free source of knowledge about God, Jesus, and what it means to live a life according to God’s plan. On the other side of the spectrum are the (for lack of a better word) “Skeptics.” Skeptics see the Bible – not as God’s WORD – but as a list of precepts and principles that outline the best way a person can live.
Where do you fall on this spectrum? Do you believe the Bible is important? Why?
Here’s why I think this is an important conversation.
1) For the Inerrants.
I know a lot of people that believe the Bible is THE source of knowledge about God, Jesus, the world, and what it means to be a Christian. They believe the Bible is the "inerrant" or "error free" Word of God, and that the words of the Bible fall into a special category of revelation called – special revelation. They believe that the authors of the Bible were inspired by God in a very unique way, and that the words the authors wrote were not their own – they were God’s words. The Inerrants compare everything else to the Bible, and if the Bible and a certain Christian theologian disagree – the Bible is true. Period.
Ironically, the Inerrants also love other authors, books, music, sermons, podcasts, etc… They love to read books by Francis Chan, David Platt, John Piper, Rick Warren, and others. And that’s why I think the question – Should Christian books exist outside of the Bible – is an important one for Inerrants to wrestle with. Because if it’s true that the Bible is THE source of all wisdom and knowledge about God; if it’s true that the Bible is full of God’s words; why would you waste even a minute of your time reading a book from some lesser Christian teacher? Why waste your time listening to a podcast or a sermon? If the Bible is THE source of God's Words and thoughts, shouldn’t you spend all of your time with THE source? At least until you have it memorized?
2) For the skeptics.
Skeptics have a hard time believing the Bible is the WORD of God – they are “Skeptical” of its status as special revelation. (There are some skeptics that think the book is full of errors, but I’m not addressing those people here. If that’s you, you need to do some better research. Yes, there are small errors, but less than 1% of the discrepancies actually change what a verse says.) source
The skeptics I’m talking about, are people that appreciate the Bible a lot. They think it’s an amazing collection of stories about God. They think it’s the best collection of Jesus’ teachings on the planet. And most would even agree that it’s a really good picture of who Jesus was and how he wanted us to live. That’s me. I read the Bible regularly. It gives me confidence and joy, and yet I can’t bring myself to call it the WORD of God.
But there’s another question that skeptics struggle with and it comes directly out of the Bible itself. In James 5:17 it says, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are…” As we look at the life of Peter, it’s pretty obvious that he was a human just like we are. One of the characteristics that makes the Bible so unique is the obvious humanity of the Bible’s heroes. Noah, while unconscious from drinking too much, was raped by his daughters. Jacob was a manipulator. Joseph was a cocky little you-know-what. David was a murder. Most of the disciples ran away in fear when Jesus was arrested. And Paul killed Christians. Not exactly the kinds of people you want to base a religion around. And that leads me to a major question. If Elijah, Peter, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, David, the disciples, and Paul were all humans, just like you and me, why are their books special? Why are Paul’s writings any different from Francis Chan’s?
I think that is a fair question.
But it’s also not a fair question.
It’s not fair because the Bible writings have lasted A LONG time. It’s remarkable how prevalent the writings were, and how well they were distributed around the globe. It’s also an unfair question because the writings were circulated in a very specific way that differentiates them from modern writings – they were considered a message from God through Paul (or Peter, or James, etc…)
So skeptics need to be careful too. It’s not as obviously cut and dry as we try to make it.
And that leads me to the conclusion of this post – we need to talk about this. We need to talk about the Bible and it’s reliability because the next generation has a lot of questions, and we are unprepared to answer them in a deep and thoughtful way. I think we are afraid.
But it shouldn’t be that way! These questions should bring the Church together and show the world that we are unafraid to deal with the basic tenants of faith. These are the questions that have the potential to show our God is big enough to handle uncertainty, doubt, and a few arrogant little human people (like me) who want to question why. Questions like this and others (i.e. gay marriage, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, etc…) could be the church’s most glorious moment. But the question remains, will we talk about them? Will we thoughtfully engage with the deep questions?
I would love to know what you think about this VERY LONG blog. I want this to begin the conversation because this is obviously NOT the answer. Comment below to continue the conversation…
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