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Old 05-18-2001, 06:54 AM   #11
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[/QUOTE]Strangely most fundamentals upon realising the the Bible isn't inerrant seem to drop Christianity entirely instead of just dropping the inerrancy doctrine. Personally I find this wierd...[/B][/QUOTE]

Tercel,
Why do you find this wierd? After 40 years of being a fundamental inerrantist and teaching accordingly, I find myself in the surprising position of realizing that is has many errors. I cannot figure out why to trust any of it if some of it is wrong and how to figure out what is from God and what is mans invention? Why is it not an all or none deal and how do you decide?
Thanks for your thoughts.

 
Old 05-18-2001, 04:23 PM   #12
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Tercel,

I find it pretty strange as well. It seems to me that those people are not quite as "freethinking" as they'd like to think. Extremely small and insignificant contradictions, discrepancies and errancies do not prove that the Bible is unreliable historically...they only prove that Evangelicals may be wrong in their understanding of the nature of the Bible. I guess some people are looking for a quick and easy way to "disprove" the Bible, and minor problems in the text provide a great way to avoid doing any of the real dirty work it takes to test the Bible's historicity.

Matt
 
Old 05-18-2001, 04:26 PM   #13
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Don't everybody get mad at me though...only SOME people are like that!

Matt
 
Old 05-18-2001, 04:39 PM   #14
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doc58,

Very little of the contents of the N.T. comprises what must be believed in order to be a Christian. The only thing that really matters is not whether you accept the Bible as innerant (for many Christians have lived their whole lives w/o ever being able to own a Bible), but whether or not you believe in the literal resurrection from the dead of Jesus of Nazareth, and the theological implications of that event (salvation by grace, through faith--not by works). I believe that the historical evidence points toward that conclusion, and thus I am a Christian. The N.T. is not, in my humble opinion, the innerrant word of God (a conclusion for which I have much Biblical and historical support); I don't believe that the NT claims to be the Truth, or any revelation of Truth, but merely an authoritative witness to The Truth, Jesus Christ, God incarnate (Hebrews 1:1-3). I do accept the NT as the only rule of faith for me, since it is the collection of writings which were carefully and judiciously lifted out of a much larger body of early Christian literature by the early Church. Those who claim innerrancy of the NT do so, it seems to me, out of ignorance; after all, what books are innerrant? All the books in your Bible? Well, the Church of England (among others) accepts the 14 apocryphal books of the OT as canonical, and some Eastern European churchs (Greek Orthodox and Turkish Orthodox?) do not accept the Apocolypse of John (or Revelation). No, the NT, so it seems, cannot be innerrant; but I am sure that it contains better information about our resurrected Lord than any other collection of books in existence.

Matt

[This message has been edited by matt (edited May 18, 2001).]
 
Old 05-18-2001, 07:06 PM   #15
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by doc58:
Strangely most fundamentals upon realising the the Bible isn't inerrant seem to drop Christianity entirely instead of just dropping the inerrancy doctrine. Personally I find this wierd...

Tercel,
Why do you find this wierd? After 40 years of being a fundamental inerrantist and teaching accordingly, I find myself in the surprising position of realizing that is has many errors. I cannot figure out why to trust any of it if some of it is wrong and how to figure out what is from God and what is mans invention? Why is it not an all or none deal and how do you decide?
Thanks for your thoughts.</font>
All right, here are my thoughts on the matter.
***Disclaimer: Rodahi: this IS MY OPINION. I do not need a response saying "this is your opinion" or "this is conjecture" or "no one knows". Thank you.***

One of the first questions to ask yourself, is "Why am I a Christian in the first place?". Inerrancy is surely something adopted as a result of being a Christian and not the cause of it. Thus dropping inerrancy should really have no effect on the root reason for being a Christian.

The first thing to realise is that God didn't himself write the Bible. (Except for possibly the ten commandments of course) He didn't magic it into being. He didn't possess the writers and write it through them. Neither did he dictate it word for word to the writers.
The writers were human. I'm sure that many of them were extremely religious and close to God: Paul for example.
Men make mistakes: Even if every writer of the Bible was completely dedicated to the accurate preservation of history there would no doubt be many errors and contradictions.
The second thing that needs clearly understanding but which is hard to grasp is this: What is the difference between inerrancy, accuracy, truth, general correctness, intention to report the truth etc?
A person begins with an intention to report the truth. Then going up the scale, they might be generally correct - getting the major facts right. They might get a bit more than that correct and give pretty much a true account of events. They might get even more correct and be accurate in nearly everything. They might get absolutely everything correct and be inerrant. Just because someone isn't inerrant by no means limits them from being accurate, truthful or generally correct. Only the inerrancy is being dropped not the rest.

We enter form criticism here. A hard sounding name but actually something every single person does all the time. You don't need to be a scholar to do it and indeed there is no reason why a novice opinion is any less accurate than that of a scholar. Form criticism is: What am I reading? Is it poetry? Is it a history? Is it a myth?
We do it every day, evaluating every book, note and word we read. If someone gave you a book out of a library and refused to tell you what section they had taken it out of do you think you could identify whether it was fiction or non-fiction, fantasy or history, an article or a ballard? Of course you could. Just do the same when reading the Bible. Remember that "The Bible" is not one unified book but nearly every book has a different author. Even for those books which have the same author make sure you ask yourself "What is the author's intention in writing this book?". Is the author trying to convey his opinion and instructions, present history, show the actions of god in the world, give a story with a moral, or pass on wisdom?
I suggest you read the apocrypha and other Gospels outside the cannon. Compare their form to the 4 Gospels and other books of the cannon. Can you see why (from a form-critical point of view) these books are not in the cannon?
I think you will find that when reading with this in mind all the books of the bible especially the old-testament ones will suddenly become much more interesting.

But what is actually lost by dropping inerrancy and god-spokeness for some amount of errancy and human-writteness? As I see it, nothing.
The great question lurking behind all this is: How much of what is in the Bible is relevant to us today? And thus what do we lose by realising that the Bible contains some mistakes?
I would say there are three catagories of things in the Bible relevant today:
1) Morality and Goodness.
2) God's relationship with man.
3) Necessary history.

1) Morality and Goodness:
Any moral lessons that were there are still there. We still judge them the same way we always did: against the standard of moral rightness that we all know. Does it matter whether a moral truth is from god or from a man? No. We have a conscience, we have the knowledge of what is good and what is evil: we are perfectly capable of deciding the morality of an idea.
We lose nothing on this front by dropping biblical inerrancy.

2) God's relationship with man.
By this I mean: What can we know about or expect from God?
What attributes of God are we now unsure of, having dropped inerrancy?
This inevitably returns to form-criticism. I'll give an example: The books of Samuel 1&2 Kings 1&2. These books seem to flow together in chronology, and have the same form so I think it reasonable to infer the same writer. In my opinion the writer has clearly got hold of a historical account and/or has written it himself from research. One of his main sources appears to be "The History of the Kings of Israel". He has taken this history and read into in the actions of God. The writer sees God as having participated in the History of Israel. So onto this history he places his concept of God and God's actions in the world. He may have been completely correct, he may also have been outrightly wrong. But that is not the point.
Based on this view it seems reasonable that we can get pretty accurate history straight off the pages of these books once we subtract the interactions with God. We also get from these books the writer's perspective of how God acts in the world. The writer sees a God who is throughly involved in human affairs but also one that is pretty tempermental and a bit capricious. From this it is worth asking why do we think the writer saw God this way? How does it similar and how does it differ to our opinion? How does it compare to other writers views in the Bible? What can we learn from these similarities and what from the differences?
I think that if you read like this, realising the human perspective, and asking "why?" you can only get a richer understanding of God, not a lesser.

3) Necessary History.
Which parts of the history presented in the Bible are required to be true if we are to believe in God? Some parts are clearly more important than others: Would your belief in God be seriously shaken if you found out tomorrow that King David never existed? I doubt it. (Well to be honest by belief in my own ability at form criticism would be shaken to the core if not further, and that might present a problem) But my point is, the existence of King David as ruler of a small nation some three thousand or so years ago is not an integral part of faith. So what is? What parts of Christian history if lost would cause serious damage to Christianity as we know it? It is these parts and these parts only which come under assult once the doctrine of inerrancy is dropped. What are these parts though? Once you think about it, I think you'll find it doesn't extend much beyond the Resurrection of Jesus. That is about the only historical event which is absolutely necessary to the Christian faith. If the rest of Bible history was dropped it would be a sore blow, yet as long as the Resurrection remained Christianity would still remain. I think Paul was right in saying that "If Christ was not resurrected then our faith is in vain". There are hundreds if not thousands of books in circulation which go over the evidence for the resurrection 10 times better than I could.

"If the Bible has some errors it must be all wrong". This is a pretty dangerous logical fallacy that seems to me pretty heavily entrenched in the minds of most inerrantists and atheists. A book must be apparently all right or all wrong. As soon as you actually examine this belief it quickly becomes apparent how silly it is. If we read a biography or a history and find an detail which we know from elsewhere is wrong do we immediately stop reading because it must be all wrong or all untrustworthy? Or do we simply think that the writer made a mistake and keep on reading?
The Roman historian Tacitus stuffs up and calls Pilate a procurator instead of a prefect. Since he got this detail wrong clearly the entire rest of his history of the Roman empire must be wrong!
If I gave you a school history text book: Would you declare it to be completely inerrant? If you found one mistake in it would you declare it all wrong?
If given two reports of an accident which differed in many of the details would you assume that: both reports are completely wrong and the real accident was completely different? the accident never happened since the witnesses can't agree? what the witnesses agree on definitely happened and what they disagree on probably reflects their two different human perspectives on what they saw?
We only need to apply the same standard to the books of the Bible that we apply to anything else daily. Again it doesn't take a scholar to do it, anyone's opinion is just as valid - we are trained throughout our lives to sift fact from fiction and truth out of perspective.

Finally, my personal opinions:
I am at the conservative end of the spectrum: I assign to all the books of the Bible their traditional authors and feel reasonably confident about doing this - the early church writers going as far back as Papias in 130 AD and possibly Polycarp (You'll have to ask Bede about that one) attribute the New Testament Gospels to their traditional authors. Most of Paul letters are considered genuine by all and the ones that are argued over I have no problem attributing to Paul. Things like 1&2 Peter, James, 1&2&3 John etc don't really matter who wrote them all said and done but I opt for their traditionally assigned authorship because I find it more likely than a fake.
My only real concern is the Gospel of Matthew. In my view (form-criticism again) it shows a near dangerous level of legendary development (ie the author was willing to compromise history or close to it) not supported by the other Gospels: eg an earthquake at the tomb, the dead saints rising, Herod's slaughter of children in Bethlehem. While these events may well have happened and I don't rule that out before I start I find them to be unlikely, especially the dead saints rising. My concern is furthered when I find the early Church Fathers stating that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. The version we have is Greek. Who did the translation? Did they feel free to 'improve' the story at the same time?
Apart from that I think that the Gospels and Acts were written with the intention of conveying as much historical truth as possible.
The non-cannonical Gospels with their pretty clearly legendary material start appearing in obsure sects late in the second century. Yet in general Christian and non-Christian scholars alike are agreed that all four Gospels were completed prior to 100 AD. (No doubt some of the more extreme posters here will be along shortly to tell me that "no one knows") If Jesus died in 30 AD this is 70 years maximum. Have a think about how much we could know about a major event from 70 years ago just from what your partents told your or what your grandparents told you. Do you think there is any possibility whatsoever that the true record of a major ever less than 70 years ago could be completely and utterly subsumed by legend with no one remembering the truth? Are we to believe that those who knew Jesus and those who knew those who knew Jesus would have remained silent on the matter if the Gospels which started appearing had no base in reality? What were they doing about it all? Well if we can believe the early Church Fathers they were in fact writing them!

Anyway I've gotten waaay off topic but I hope that answered your questions: "Why is it not an all or none deal and how do you decide?" Very little in life is an all or none deal, and this is no exception. You decide by using the same decision making abilities you use whenever you look at, read or do anything. You decide with the brain God gave you, it's there for a reason.

I recommend these books, if you haven't already read them:
Know Why You Believe by Paul E. Little.
(It might be hard to get now as it was published 1968. But it's worth reading if you possibly can)
Mere Christianity and Miracles by CS Lewis.
(And anything else by Lewis for that matter. In my opinion, he was the greatest Christian writer of the 20th Century)
Everlasting Man by GK Chesterton.
(And anything else by him. You can download this from the internet, at http://www.dur.ac.uk/~dcs6mpw/gkc/bo...ting_man.html)

I'm not normally very good at explaining things to other people, and I doubt this post is an exception. If any other non-fundamentalist Christians here agree or disagree with anything I've said or wish to add something, I would be interested to hear.


God bless,

-Tercel
 
Old 05-18-2001, 07:36 PM   #16
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Tercel,

You'd better carefully rethink some of your ideas about the Gospel of Matthew, etc.! Once you start trying to sift through the Biblical accounts to find the historical and the unhistorical, you're already going headlong down the path to an extremely dangerous degree of liberalism. If you think that the Bible writers "could be right and could be wrong" about what actions in history they attributed to God, then you've certainly got no right to call yourself "conservative" in any sense whatsoever. I have never heard such liberalism in my life from someone who accepted the literal resurrection from the dead of Jesus (you do, don't you?!?). Heck, if the Bible CAN contain doctrinal and gross historical errors, then our own ideas about God are as legitamite as those of the Biblical writers!
 
Old 05-18-2001, 08:07 PM   #17
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Once you start trying to sift through the Biblical accounts to find the historical and the unhistorical, you're already going headlong down the path to an extremely dangerous degree of liberalism.</font>
Dangerous?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Heck, if the Bible CAN contain doctrinal and gross historical errors, then our own ideas about God are as legitamite as those of the Biblical writers!</font>
Can't have that!
 
Old 05-18-2001, 08:20 PM   #18
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Come now SingleDad, surely you know that us Lib-rahls are the Servants Of Satan and represent all that is immoral and wrong.

I'm surprised "Christians" like matty here haven't yet accused us of eating babies.
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Old 05-18-2001, 08:35 PM   #19
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Iconoclast and SingleDad,

First of all, my message was not intended for you or in any way addressed to you, so you needn't get huffy!

Secondly, "liberal" views of the Bible are not utter disbelief of them! "Liberal" is usually used in that sense to mean a "liberal theologian"; nobody is accusing either of you of being theologians!

[This message has been edited by matt (edited May 18, 2001).]
 
Old 05-18-2001, 08:47 PM   #20
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Tercel,

Better check out these verses:

Romans 1:1,5
Galatians 1:8,9
I Thessalonians 2:13
I Timothy 2:7
Colossians 4:16
II Thessalonians 3:14
Revaltion 1:3

ESPECIALLY:
I Corinthians 14:37
II Corinthians 13:3
John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13

II PETER 3:14-18

While you may not hold to the innerrancy of scripture, you must somehow bend your theology to accomodate these verses. As far as I can see, and judging by the views expressed in your post, you do not.

Matt
 
 

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