Comments

  1. Anita says

    “Properly interpreted” = as long as it agrees with my world view. I notice you don’t really cite the Biblical scholars who disagree with your position.

    • says

      Not citing scholars who disagree is very simple. It’s a blog post not an academic book. A blog post that’s already too long.

      I’d be more than happy to give you a list of books that address (and shred) the arguments of scholars who deny the Bible’s authority and reliability.

  2. says

    “Scripture, when properly interpreted, is the standard and judge of such revelation.”

    Ahh, and there’s the rub. When “properly interpreted”. If I had a nickel for all the varying interpretations of scriptural passages I’d be a very rich man.

    That being said, I still believe the Bible is inspired. I definitely believe that it points to Jesus. I’m just extremely frustrated by the fact that even though the Bible seems to actively resist being nailed down, we Christians can’t seem to stop trying to do so. And doing so much damage in the process.

    • says

      Yes, interpretation is key. Len Sweet and I discuss and demonstrate how the NT Christians interpreted the Scriptures in “Jesus: A Theography.” We believe Scripture contains its own hermeneutic.

  3. Timothy says

    I agree with Travis Mamone. Barth’s view on the Bible not being the Word of God at all times seems correct to me. If we accept it to be this we elevate it too highly. Personal revelation if it’s of God is the same as the Bible. Have you read Barth?

    • says

      Not sure if you read my response to Travis, but here’s what I wrote to him below:

      While Barth — along with many other theologians from Augustine to Bonhoeffer — did a great job pointing out that all Scripture points to Jesus (something Len Sweet and I argue in detail in “Jesus: A Theography” – Oct, 2012), I agree with those scholars who believe that Barth’s view of inspiration was weak and uncompelling. Yes, Scripture is a finger that points to the Person of Christ. But that finger is alive with God’s life. Thus Paul could say, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” When we pit one against the other — on either side — we fall off the horse. I think you’ll enjoy the Theography. See http://frankviola.org/JesusChrist

      So I agree with Barth in some places. I like his Christocentricity — which was shared by Bonhoeffer. And he was a fierce and formidable critic against the liberal theologians of his day (hence why many evangelicals like him still). But his neoorthox view of biblical inspiration is something I regard as weak and thus I don’t agree with it. I also believe his ecclesiology was weak. Bonhoeffer’s was much stronger – see my post on “Act and Being.”

      If the Holy Spirit authentically speaks to someone today, it’s the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures. But it’s a mistake to regard such speaking today on the same par as Scripture. Scripture has endured the test of time and has been regarded by God’s people throughout the ages to be the standard for testing all revelation. Hence the word “canon.” Check out what that word means.

  4. John Philip says

    So much sense in what you write, Frank! Thanks for your many prophetic insights over the years.

    One thing with which I may disagree with you is the use of the phrase ‘Word of God’. I believe that, when using capital letters so that it is a title, this should be reserved for Jesus. When used with lower case (‘word of God’) it should refer to the words given directly by Yahweh, for example to Moses, by Jesus or by the Holy Spirit. I firmly believe that it is a huge mistake to view the whole bible as a sort of divine entity in its own right.

    This said, I completely agree with your views that the bible is both reliable and authoritative and that sceptics have rarely investigated their own claims. The last point unfortunately also applies to many Christians, whose trust in the authority of ‘the Word of God’ is actually greater than their trust in Jesus, and whose claims of the inneracy of the bible are based on what they have been taught, not what they have learned from honest appraisal.

  5. Ant Writes says

    Interesting how you’re writing these posts now. I’m getting bombarded with so many “liberal” Christians, who mock my evangelicalism as narrow-minded, uneducated and/or “fundamentalist”, that I am revisiting subject I haven’t in years. I was a vocal atheist in my younger years who got “radically saved” (is there any other way?) almost 20 years or so ago and haven’t looked back. I’ve read every Josh McDowell book cover to cover and all of Strobel’s books as well, but I feel as if liberal Christianity is the new rage. I find liberal Christianity as an oxymoron … if you can’t believe in the basic tenets of the Bible (that Jonah was real and not allegorical), how can you believe Jesus himself?

    Thanks for these posts during this season. I’m waiting for the mailman in earnest for your new book!

  6. says

    Having done quite a bit of study in this area, I would simply add that there are NO real historians, that are experts in the field of ancient history, that claim that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. And anyone on the fringe of historical studies that make this claim or not taken seriously as historical/biblical scholars by mainstream scholarship. I recommend reading Bart Ehrman’s (who is an agnostic and opponent of Christianity) take on this in his book, “Did Jesus Exist?”. Even Ehrman acknowledges the absurdity of being a Jesus-myther. It’s the YouTube atheists that propagate such nonsense.

  7. Nigel says

    Reference the discrepancies discussed at point 4 – I work for a law firm and am accustomed to taking witness testimony. It is quite usual for witnesses to the same event to differ on points of detail. Where the evidence of two or more witnesses is identical in every particular, this usually the suspicion of collusion between witnesses in the eyes of a court. From that perspective, the minor discrepancies referred to support the case that the accounts given are substantially correct. Indeed the abscence of discrepancies would lend support to the claim that the accounts had been fabricated.

    I also note that, on a more everyday level, a married couple describing the same event will again often differ on points of detail. This does not lead us to doubt the substance of what they are telling us.

    From all of the above, the existence of discrepancies strengthens rather than weakens the veracity of the bible.

  8. Hilary says

    Frank,

    This series of posts is so well timed. I constantly struggle how to present my faith to unbelievers as something that is rational, and this is very helpful. It is also great to remind myself of the fact that when we commit ourselves to following Jesus, we are not following a mythical person but a person that existed in history and is alive. Oh and I look forward to reading Jesus: A Theography!

  9. Paul says

    Frank,

    These articles could not have been more timely for me. for the last few weeks I have gone astray. I started reading books by Dawkins, Hitchins, Harris, etc. to see what they saw about God and religion. Before I knew it I was starting to buy into the deception. I still have doubt, but now am realizing that doubting is a part of faith.

    I enjoy investigating science and the claims for evolution and am currently reading “The Language of God” by Francis Collins. I hope to see how the claims of science and Christianity can exist together. What are your thoughts for instance on “Young Earth Creation?”

    Anyway I don’t read every blog you post, but this series was extremely timely. Thanks

    • says

      I’m glad you found these essays of help. If you’re the only person who has been aided by them, I’m glad I published them. The subject of the earth’s age makes me yawn to be honest as it has no bearing on the reliability of the Bible. There are first-rate Christian scholars, theologians, and godly men and women on both sides of that issue. The texts don’t address the matter directly and cases can be made for several different viewpoints, all of which are built on inference. Scientist aren’t in agreement either, though there is the prevailing wisdom of an old earth. Whether the earth is old or young, Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and the First and Second Testament testimonies of Him are true.

  10. rikk says

    Thanks for your sharing your thoughts.

    I don’t read much about this subject anymore, and I should admit that I should really have given it more effort as I do find this part of pop culture very interesting.

    I came across your post from twitter and noticed that you hadn’t approached the scientific claims of the bible that have been proven to be false, inaccurate and some dangerously misleading.

    Here’s the link I shared on twitter to give some examples.

    http://www.newscientist.com/mobile/article/dn13695-evolution-myths-the-theory-is-wrong-because-the-bible-is-inerrant.html

    I am aware that there’s been many attempts already to explain around these points but personally, I am unconvinced. I would find it interesting but probably not surprising to read about your own thoughts on this matter.

    • says

      That article is a straw man. It assumes too much and mis-assumes that all Christians read the Old Testament the way the article suggests. They do not. Not by a long shot. I suggest you read the work of N.T. Wright, John Goldingay, David Lamb, Peter Enns, and Paul Copan on these so called “scientific claims of the Bible.” I’d begin with my two interviews “God Behaving Badly” and “Is God a Moral Monster” in the archives. None of what you wrote overturns or discounts the points made in this post. Just sayin’. 😉

  11. says

    This is awesome, Frank! I looked into this years ago and found similar information, and it really strengthened my walk in a time when criticism of Christianity and the Bible was very common. It is amazing to me how little known this information is. While our walk in Christ is by faith given by God’s grace, being reminded of these facts makes it very difficult to fall into doubt. I hope many Christians will check these articles out.

    • says

      Thanks, Mark. I’m publishing the series with the hopes of arming Christians with some answers to the common objections to the faith as well as helping those who don’t yet know Jesus yet who are searching for answers.

  12. Kelli says

    I would like to ask a clarifying question, Frank. Your last statement in this post says “On a somewhat related note, see my post from May 2012 called On Mysticism where I argue that a person’s personal leadings or insights should never be placed on a par with or above Scripture, something I expand upon in Revise Us Again.”

    My question is, if we are to learn to live by the indwelling spirit of God, meaning his spirit within us, and I understand that the bible is meant to help us in that endeavor, but we cannot place a book above God either, even if it’s a book inspired by Him in the first place.

    So what happens, theoretically, if someone were imprisoned and has no access to the bible or any sacred writings and has no access to the church (as you’ve defined it and as I agree with)? Are you saying that their personal leading and insights are to be discarded? Could you please elaborate on this because it seems to me that we can legitimately put our personal leading and insight ON PAR (but not above par) with Scripture (and in fact is beneficial to do so) but ONLY IF that personal leading or insight is in line with GOD’s INTENT as identified in scripture.

    I mean to say that we often times will read scripture with a predefined filter based upon our experiences and what we’ve been taught about how to interpret a piece of scripture. However, most of us who agree and align with your definition of Church would never have gotten here if we continued to believe what we were taught about Church from those who taught it to us. So in a sense, the personal leading and insight that brought you and many others to the same conclusions about what the Church is supposed to be came from within (and then substantiated by scripture after we got that little niggling in our gut that said something was off) and not from what we’ve been traditionally taught about Church. Having said that I do think that the personal leading/insight you and many others received was on par with God’s intent about Church and is in line with HIS intent as identified in scripture, if we’re open enough to take off the filter handed to us. I hope this is making sense and would really love to for you to elaborate.

    Thank you!

    Kelli

    • says

      I’ve not said anything about a person who is in prison and has no Bible or doesn’t know what the Bible says. The point is that if a person says that God told them to do something, for instance, and it contracts what He has said in Scripture, then their revelation is bogus. The same is true for what people teach. The Scriptures are the standard and either correct or confirm our subjective leadings as well as our sacred traditions. I make this case in “Reimagining Church” as it concerns ecclesiology. The Spirit and the Scriptures will always agree. Take a look at what Tozer said and the others in that May post. I gives examples in “Revise Us Again” as well. I grew up in the Charismatic movement and people were saying “God told me …” all the time. And many times such sayings contracted the teachings of Jesus. So God wasn’t really telling them those things.

      I’m looking forward to hearing the responses of non-Christians to this post as it was written to them. So if you know anyone who doesn’t know the Lord and they’re using the “unreliability of the Bible” as an excuse to reject Jesus, feel free to point them here.

      • Kelli says

        Frank, I appreciate the response as I know that my question wasn’t really relevant to the intent of the post. I was just curious what you thought and why you stated that personal leading and insight should not be put on par with scripture, especially when scripture can be grossly mistranslated and understood. I agree with you that many folks have gone the route of “God told me.” I too spent a number of years in the charismatic/pentacostal ways and have personally been guilty of doing the “God told me” thing. I think that both our personal leading and insights and our understanding of scripture should align with each other because if we don’t have emphasis on the spirit within then we fall into the ditch of becoming dogmatic and judgmental and scripture becomes a whipping instrument, but if we only have emphasis on the spirit then we can also fall into the other ditch of being led into ares that are not God’s will.

        Anyway, thanks for the response, I appreciate it very much!

        Kelli

        • says

          Regarding your concerns of falling off the other side of the horse, I’ve written a great deal on the indwelling life of Christ (via the Spirit) and not to dismiss or undermine it. But the other peril is to exalt one’s personal leadings above the Spirit, and I’ve given sufficient time to addressing that as well. Both are “errors by emphasis” (as I call them) and we should never pit the Bible against the Spirit on either side. The Scriptures have stood the test of time and they have the authorization of the body of Christ throughout the ages. So it’s spurious to equate an individual’s alleged “leading” to be on the same par as Scripture, which means to exalt it to the status of being a standard for judging truth. “Canon” means standard and Christians throughout the ages have held it as such. That’s not to say the Bible “is” the Holy Spirit as one Church of Christ person tried to tell me years ago. Nor is it to say that interpretations of the Bible are often erroneous and they must be weighed. Anyways, this post is mainly for those who don’t know Jesus so we’re really off the subject. But I hope it helps. Take care.

          • Rick Costa says

            Another thing to consider in this line of thought is that the Bible is for ALL believers at all times whereas a personal word given by the Holy Spirit may only be for a select few at a specific time.
            Also for me personal I would sooner trust what I see in the Bible which I know has been around unchanged for many generations than a person’s “God told” who’s integrity and intentions I can’t really know. Not to say that I don’t believe God can speak that way because He has used me to do so as well but I wouldn’t put that on the same level of Scripture.

  13. Travis Mamone says

    My approach to the Bible has changed dramatically in the past two years. I still believe that God speaks through us through Scripture . . . but I no longer believe that God “wrote” the Bible. Neither do I believe that the Bible is inerrant.

    For example, there’s no record of Caesar ordering a tax as described in Luke, there are two different creation accounts in Genesis, and the Flood story parallels a similar story found in the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    Now that doesn’t mean we should stop reading the Bible. Heavens no! It’s just that we need to be careful not to hold up a collection of thousand-year-old books just as high as we hold up Jesus.

    • says

      Travis. Those examples in no way deny the Bible’s truthfulness of reliability. Archeologists and historians are constantly discovering events in the Bible that were not previously found in history only to be discovered in other sources later. Your example of Caesar’s tax in no way denies the historicity of Luke’s claim. The two Genesis accounts have been explained multiple times by theologians. Len Sweet and I even weigh-in on it in our new book, “Jesus: A Theography.” They are different takes on the same event viewed from different perspectives. One is a micro view, the other is a macro view. Yes, the flood is found in the literature of many cultures and many scholars have pointed out that this only affirms that it occurred. I suggest you take a look at some of the books in my list at the bottom of the post as well as the “Alleged Discrepancies” volume. In short, we can trust what Scripture says about Jesus and His claims as Messiah and Lord, which is most important.

      • Travis Mamone says

        I still believe that the Bible is a witness to Jesus, which is how it becomes the Word of God, as Karl Barth would say. I just think we need to be careful not to elevate the Bible to the same level authority as Jesus. The Bible, to me, is a finger pointing to the moon, not the actual moon itself.

        • says

          While Barth — along with many other theologians from Augustine to Bonhoeffer — did a great job pointing out that all Scripture points to Jesus (something Len Sweet and I argue in detail in “Jesus: A Theography” – Oct, 2012), I agree with those scholars who believe that Barth’s view of inspiration was weak and uncompelling. Yes, Scripture is a finger that points to the Person of Christ. But that finger is alive with God’s life. Thus Paul could say, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” When we pit one against the other — on either side — we fall off the horse. I think you’ll enjoy the Theography. See http://frankviola.org/JesusChrist

        • Claire Demtre says

          Sadly, the bible is always misrepresented, misinterpreted, misused and in the hands of mere men it’s just a weapon. God is quite capable of revealing to me His word/message.. as in “personal relationship”. What is written in the bible is one of many ways of knowing about God. But it’s God himself who speaks into our hearts who He is and His love for us. And He chooses how he reveals Himself to us.

          • says

            Certainly, the Bible has been misused and misinterpreted to justify all sorts of horrible things. However, to put one’s personal revelation above the Scripture is to err. Scripture, when properly interpreted, is the standard and judge of such revelation. The Holy Spirit will never contradict Himself.

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