Friday posts on my blog are normally reserved for introducing you, the loyal readers, to a scholarly or pastoral voice who has influenced my own journey with regards to whatever subject I spent the earlier part of the week discussing.
This week, however, I spent the week discussing my rejection of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy which, in my mind, lays the groundwork for my explanation of what I do affirm about the authority and/or inspiration of the Bible.
And as I mulled over who I might introduce you to on that front, I realized that most of my key guides on this leg of the journey spoke to me through rather exhaustive books and academic articles and that, if I were to recommend an accessible resource, it would likely be someone I’ve already highlighted, such as Peter Enns.
I also realized that this week’s subject matter is a little heavier. As I discussed in kicking things off, declaring that the Bible contains errors and contradictions – at least in the way its typically framed – is a little more jarring for people than telling them I no longer believe that before time began that God picked who was going to heaven and who was going to hell (which tells you a lot).
And so for this week’s #ff experience I’m going to sort of punt the normal routine and let everyone take a breather. I have some resources shared below that I will unpack a bit. Anyone who wants to keep wrestling through the weekend will have the means to do so. Then, next week, we will look at violence in Bible and the concept of myth before picking up the pieces of everything I shattered and explaining how the Bible remains vital for Christians, even progressive ones.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear some thoughts. People seemed almost giddy that I’d found my way out of Calvinism but I suspect there’s some greater consternation (noun: feelings of anxiety or dismay, typically at something unexpected) about the prospect of faulty scriptures.
After all, if we can’t trust what they say about David and Goliath, how can we trust what they say about Jesus? People need the Bible to meet Jesus, right?
And shouldn’t the Bible be easy to understand? Am I suggesting that people need advanced degrees in Ancient Near Eastern languages and customs to do a basic Bible study?
These are good questions and I will be addressing them. In the mean time, here’s some weekend reading (and watching) to help spur on the conversation.
Do my endless links to other reading and resources only serve to stress you out?
Are you more of an auditory learner who would rather listen to what someone has to say than read what they have to write?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then you might just be interested in this 10 part YouTube series on the strangeness of the Bible. Each episode spans about 7-10 minutes, making them great to play in the background while you make breakfast or drive to work (you don’t really need to see what’s happening on the video). And they serve as great companion pieces for what I’ve been saying (and will continue to say next week) about how the Bible works.
In it, Enns looks at an idea that is often taken for granted by Christians, the idea that the Bible teaches that God created everything ex nihilo, meaning “out of nothing nothing”.
So does Enns suggest that the Bible teaches otherwise? Well you’ll need to read the post to find out.
But let me say up front that the value here isn’t necessarily in any conclusions that Enns draws or fails to draw, but rather in the important way that he frames the very debate itself, properly in the quite alien (i.e. mythical) world-picture (spoiler alert!) from which it originated.
Meanwhile, this slightly longer piece makes for a good companion read alongside Enns’. If you enjoyed our conversations a few weeks back about creation and evolution, I’d definitely recommend taking the time to read both posts.
Lastly, since a lot of this discussion has been focused on the Old Testament (except of course for yesterday’s mentions of the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke), I thought it might be interesting to see something from the New Testament.
The Gospels are some of the most debated texts in the New Testament precisely because scholars cannot agree on how to assess their numerous disagreements. To be clear, they obviously agree on quite a bit. They agree that Jesus was an apocalyptic Jewish prophet who proclaimed the Kingdom of God (or Heaven, if we’re reading Matthew) by performing miraculous signs and speaking in parables. They agree that he was crucified by the Romans (although there is some disagreement as to exactly why). And they all agree that he rose from the grave.
But within those massive areas of agreement there is a lot to quibble over. There are differences in chronology of events, and in some of the finer details of those events such as who was or was not present.
There are also differences in what is emphasized, suggesting that some of the stories were intentionally altered or embellished for particular audiences.
One such area of difference is in the way the gospel of Luke diverges from Mark and Matthew on the question of marriage and resurrection. And the discussion of this difference is a reminder about how easy it is to read what we expect the text to say into the text itself, thereby missing what is actually being said.
And this is one where I’d definitely encourage you to check out the comments as some lively discussion takes place there as well.
We’ll call it there and pick up on Monday. As always, the more conversation, even push back, the better.
So whether you love it,
or don’t see what all the fuss it over one way or another,
Be sure to let me and everyone else know!