I wandered onto your site looking for Steve Taylor lyrics-I’m a huge fan and really appreciate the page. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading the things you have posted. I wondered if you could point me in the direction of or what your thoughts are about the Bible as the inspired word of God. I have a dear friend who is at a point in her Christian walk where she has some very real questions that I have become stumped about how to answer. She’s definitely a believer in god but is beginning to question the divinity of Jesus because she is questioning the New Testament. I DO believe we’re supposed to think about our faith and put even the hardest questions to God. (Probably why I am such a huge Steve Taylor fan, eh?)
She asks her questions and most people come back with “because the Bible says so that’s why.” Her own critical thinking skills will not take “the Bible is true because it says it’s true” as an answer. She gets a lot of “just have faith and you’ll see” from people too and that’s not helping. Her questions (and I’ll admit some that I have been wrestling with as well) are (among others but I’ll toss the glaring ones out at you first):
* How do we know that the books that are there are the ones that are supposed to be there?
* Why is the apocrypha gone from protestant bibles and not from Roman Catholic bibles? Who said it was ok to take out?”
* If the councils that voted upon the canon were so close how do we trust that the council was inspired? What if people on the council voted outside of God’s will?
* How can we trust anything that had Constantine’s stamp of approval on it?
* Does the Old Testament point to there being a written New Testament? Anywhere?
* Why didn’t Jesus say “take notes-this will be scripture someday”?
* There are 100’s of letters from original church leaders ie Paul-why are the letters included that are included?
* Did the people writing the New Testament know that their writing would be scripture? Don’t you think they would shuddered at the thought?
I’d truly appreciate any feedback you can give. I actually have a ton of questions regarding church practices as well but ah, for another day. I really look forward to hearing from you. I thank you in advance for your input.
I wondered if you could point me in the direction of or what your thoughts are about the Bible as the inspired word of God.
I definitely believe that the Bible was inspired by God. But I think some people confuse inspiration and dictation. While some portions of the Bible clearly were dictated by God, I don't think that the Bible, for the most part, is people writing word-for-word what God specifically told them to write. Like the information from the Gospels, I believe, came from eyewitnesses to the events, not from the mouth of God. It doesn't make sense that all four Gospels were dictated by God, because, if so, why are they writing from four different points-of-view? Why do some talk about the birth narratives, and some do not? Why do some give details that other Gospels omit? If they all came directly from God, they'd all say the same thing. The Gospels were inspired by God in the fact that the four authors loved God and were inspired by God and Jesus to write about the events of those years. But while I have yet to see anything which is clearly a mistake or contradictory, it wouldn't shatter my faith if minor mistakes were made, since these were eyewitness accounts, and mistakes can be made in such accounts. As far as things like Paul's letters (which are more about doctrine or philosophy than specific events), I do believe that Paul wrote them under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That's not a guarantee that everything Paul wrote was exactly word-for-word what God wanted him to write. But Paul knew the Apostles, and was surrounded by other followers of Jesus. If what he was writing was really in opposition to God and Jesus, he would never have been so highly regarded in his day. I recognize Paul as one who speaks for the Lord, because those who knew Jesus best (having walked with Him personally) recognized him as one who speaks for the Lord.
She asks her questions and most people come back with “because the Bible says so that’s why.” Her own critical thinking skills will not take “the Bible is true because it says it’s true” as an answer. She gets a lot of “just have faith and you’ll see” from people too and that’s not helping.
The best website I've seen to explain WHY the New Testament should be taken seriously is http://www.tektonics.org. Essentially, the NT writings were, for the most part, written within a generation or two of the time Jesus walked the Earth. If the information they contained was contrary to the reality of those events (like, if there was no resurrection), they would never have been taken so seriously in their day. Christianity couldn't have survived the persecution that occurred under Nero, and made it through the first century, if there wasn't something very strong and very real to support it. Myths or "wishful thinking" wouldn't have done it. I agree that there is too much circular reasoning in the logic of many Bible-followers, but some leaps of faith, or the simple following of our intuition, are necessary sometimes. We will not have all of our questions answered until we get to Heaven (though that doesn't mean we shouldn't ask them while we're here).
*How do we know that the books that are there are the ones that are supposed to be there?
The "Christian party line" is that God inspired them to include the books they did and exclude the books they didn't. Personally, I think it was more a case of using their common sense. Some books had clear backgrounds of being by certain authors. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were, according to all evidence, written by those authors within their lifetimes and were understood as being by their credited authors within their day, and also jibed with what the multitudes of Jesus' followers knew about Jesus. They were written during a time that their information could be verified or refuted, when things were very close to the source. Other "gospels" like those of Timothy and Mary came from gnostic sources (the gnostics didn't know Jesus personally), popped up long after their supposed "authors" had died, and thus were never understood as being by their credited authors, and said many things that were clearly in contradiction with what Jesus' followers knew of Him. Those were easy to dismiss, just like if someone were to come up with a "lost play" of Shakespeare that was completely unlike anything the Bard would have written, and couldn't be traced back to Shakespeare's day, it would be rightly dismissed. You should be able to find the "lost gospels" online, and see for yourself that they can't be taken too seriously.
*Why is the apocrypha gone from protestant bibles and not from Roman Catholic bibles? Who said it was ok to take out?”
They were taken out by Martin Luther, due to his split with the Catholic church. I don't know the whole story there, or whether God backed their removal, but my sister-in-law, who's a former Lutheran, and now a Catholic, has read them and says there's no important doctrinal information within them. If you go to this site (http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/kjv/), it has the King James Bible with the apocrypha. I don't really see it as "correct" to have them in, or "correct" to have them out, or at least I don't find it necessary to be staunchly for either position. I don't think God's going to punish people for reading a Bible that has a few extra or fewer books than what He would prefer.
*If the councils that voted upon the canon were so close how do we trust that the council was inspired? What if people on the council voted outside of God’s will?
If they believed in Jesus, they were forgiven. And if our Bible isn't exactly what God intended for us to read, we'll be forgiven. As long as we have a relationship with God and accept Jesus as our savior, issues like this are not that big a deal. Let's say, hypothetically, that God didn't want Paul's letter to Philemon in the Bible, but the council put it in anyway. Okay, what changes (as far as our relationship with God, or our salvation) exactly? Keep in mind that the earliest followers of Jesus had very few, if any, of these books to go on. So if our faith is called into question by a few extra or a few less books, what are we to make of their faith?
*How can we trust anything that had Constantine’s stamp of approval on it?
The New Testament didn't have Constantine's stamp of approval on it. The NT canon was decided in 393 A.D. Constantine died in 337 A.D. He may have "gotten the ball rolling", but he had no say in what books made it and what books didn't. And it's beside the point anyways, since they were all written long before Constantine was even born. If, say, some publisher decided to put together a collection of Shakespeare's writings, and it turned out that publisher was an axe murderer, I wouldn't be holding it against Shakespeare.
*Does the Old Testament point to there being a written New Testament? Anywhere?
Not that I see. I also don't see anything in the Pentateuch saying there would be a sixth or seventh book, or anything in the sixth and seventh book saying there would be an eighth and ninth. But I don't think Moses, Joshua, etc. would have been shocked that more books were written after his earliest ones. The OT keeps adding books for about a thousand, maybe more, years. I'm not seeing anything in the OT saying "okay, this is it - no more!" The OT authors likely understood that more would be added, since they themselves were adding to what was already written.
* Why didn’t Jesus say “take notes-this will be scripture someday”?
I'm not sure why that would be necessary, or if it would have improved the Gospels. For one thing, I think those who take notes tend to be focusing more on the details than on the big picture. Do you think that's what Jesus wanted for them? Or for us?
*There are 100’s of letters from original church leaders ie Paul-why are the letters included that are included?
I'd say mostly because they wanted those letters that were the most relevant, had the most to say, and reflected the mindset of the early church. Paul was widely regarded as someone who spoke for the Lord. He was someone who joyously suffered the persecution of Rome. Could it have used a few more letters? Perhaps. A few less? Perhaps. I don't see the exact number of letters as being a major issue.
*Did the people writing the New Testament know that their writing would be scripture? Don’t you think they would shuddered at the thought?
I'm sure those writing the Gospels knew that the stories would be passed down, and shared by believers for years to come. Luke, especially, was writing what he regarded as a historical text. I think Paul was, to his mind, just writing letters. I don't imagine he did recognize his writings as "scripture", but I think he would have been honored to have his writings thought of in this way. I don't imagine that most of the OT authors thought of their writings as "scripture", either.
The writer responded:
I am so sorry that I have been remiss in thanking you kindly for your in-depth response to mine and my friend’s questions regarding scripture. It truly was a blessing to me. On many levels you said exactly what I believed but couldn’t seem to gel the words together to explain it. Recently, I’ve really come to the same conclusions about the Apocrypha that it doesn’t shake my faith either way and that it’s not MORE correct to include or exclude it. I was speaking of it at work with a co-worker and she wrinkled her nose and said “Oh my goodness! Why would you want it in? Have you ever read it? It’s contrary to god’s word-that’s how we know it isn’t scripture.” So I said “have YOU read it?” and she said that no she hadn’t but she didn’t have to in order to know it was wrong.
Leave me with big heavy sighs. And unfortunately having questions is not always encouraged in Christian circles and I find myself MORE frustrated at feeling like some sort of heathen for even wondering about things.
Sorry-didn’t mean to wax personal on you. I just appreciated all you wrote so very much. I shared with my friend that I mentioned and she hasn’t read it all yet but also appreciated your time.
I thank you again sincerely and pray God’s blessings on you. I read your email to a co-worker aloud and when I was finished said “I’d just like to buy this guy a cup of coffee and soak up the knowledge". I thank you for your availability that way. I am richly blessed.