I don’t know if you have been watching the Winter Olympics. Out of a sort of morbid curiosity, I have been following on and off. Truth be told, the sports are entirely foreign to me. Living in South Africa, where the climate is beautifully tropical pretty much all year round, playing in the snow is completely alien to my experience. I have no idea what it feels like to be hit by a snowball, to glide across icy lakes, or to barrel downhill at suicidal speeds. But I could certainly see the attraction – we are not short of adrenaline-inducing activities in Africa. And then there was curling.
I admit that my half-hour dalliance with curling hardly makes me an expert, so if you are a fan of curling (bless you) read these comments in that light and please take no offense when I say that I just don’t get it. I am sure that somewhere out there, deep in the Canadian hinterlands, there is a group of fanatical supporters who dream of taking selfies with their curling heroes, but I don’t see myself ever joining them. For one thing, the game is painfully slow. It is like bowls on Valium. In fact, it makes bowls seem positively reckless by comparison, and I suspect that a mildly agitated spectator is more active than the actual participants. When the most exciting part of the highlights package (ironically there was one – go figure) is the national anthems, then you must know. So you can imagine how surprised I was to hear that one of the Russian players had been banned for doping. Which aspect of performance exactly did he think the drugs would enhance?! The mind boggles. Anyway, another issue I had with the game, aside from its mind-numbing tedium, was that I found it really difficult to figure out what was going on because the athletes (and I use the word in its loosest possible sense) remain completely stoical throughout. At least in soccer or cricket, when a player does something good, there is fist-pumping and group-hugging and ecstatic posturing in front of the television cameras, so that even if you are a complete novice to the game you know that it is appropriate to cheer. It is possible to deduce how the game is played from the responses of the players. Not so in curling. It is cold, mirthless pastime. For everybody, I suspect.
Modern Western Christianity, I believe, has approached theology in much the same way as I have curling. (Aside: I know this is a very tenuous link, but I really wanted to write about curling before the very narrow window of opportunity provided by the Olympics closes, so I apologise for the contrived analogy, but I now have it out of my system…) There is simply no way that we could ever see the beauty of a spirituality whose genesis is millennia removed from us in time, and which was birthed in a culture and an historical context that looks nothing like ours, simply by relying on our own understandings. We cannot ever appreciate the teachings of spiritual leaders like Jesus, or even Paul, for that matter, through 21st Century eyes. We cannot assume that we know them. If we do that, if we frame our understandings of them in our own ignorance, if we refuse to try to engage with them on their own terms instead of ours, we end up either dismissing them as nonsense or inventing our own version of them, which are invariably mockeries. As with curling, the beauty of Christianity can only be gleaned from a genuine attempt to see it from the point of view of the players.
In trying to come to terms with Christianity, it should seem obvious that the perspective we want most is Jesus’s. Maybe to some extent Paul’s too. Through the Bible, which is the best way to get access to Jesus, we are provided with a narrow window into a world utterly removed from our own. We don’t know its rules, its language, its culture, the way that it makes sense of its context. And so we do what we habitually do – we mine our own experiences and understandings for points of connection and we project these onto this world. And when we have done that for long enough, we start to believe that our interpretations are truth. We fail to see the artifice.
One of the problems with the belief that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God is that it makes the assumption that everybody can (and should) read the Scriptures in exactly the same way, which – conveniently for us – happens to be the way we read it today. We can ignore the fact that it is next to impossible that a 1st Century Palestinian Jew under the yoke of the Roman Empire would interpret the Hebrew Scriptures in the same way as a middle-class white male citizen of America (who probably has, if anything, only a rudimentary understanding of Aramaic)- the 21st Century’s version of the powerful elite. So we remain oblivious to our tendency to read our own theologies back into the gospel texts and the Pauline letters (because that is how our brains make sense of the unfamiliar world they present). Our teachings become Jesus’s teachings, our theologies become Paul’s theology. And after a while, we become familiar with these projections and see them as natural. That is why, I suspect, that one of the objections from some of my Christian readers and my Christian friends to my theology is that it runs contrary to “what the church has always believed”. The truth is that it runs contrary to what they believe the church has always believed.
Some of the core doctrines of modern Evangelical and protestant Christianity only arrived on the scene relatively recently, historically speaking. But we will only ever recognise that if we actively resist the urge to read a 21st Century Protestant theology back into the gospels. When we stop assuming that it has always been this way, and look at the journey Protestant theology has taken, Christianity starts to look very different. The Christianity that we know in the West is an amalgamation of the theologies of very many historical figures. Augustine, for example, a 4th Century North African monk, regarded right belief as a key marker of faith, ruthlessly persecuting the Donatists for holding the belief that the church ought to be a sort of ‘exclusive gathering of the Chosen’ rather than a more inclusive society for all sinners. Although Augustine was correct, I think, in challenging the elitism of the Donatist church, his methods of doing so are dubious. He justifies the use of violence by citing the parable of the banquet (Luke 14:15-24), where the master tells his servant to “compel them to come in”. Later church leaders used Augustine’s writings to justify their own violent persecution of pagan religions. I suspect Augustine would have seen a number of parallels between the Donatists and modern Evangelicalism. ‘What we believe’ today is certainly not what ‘we have always believed’. Not that there ever was a unified “we”.
Anyway, another figure whose beliefs shaped Christian thinking was Anselm of Canterbury, an 11th Century priest, who – unsurprisingly, given the feudal social configurations of Medieval England – came to interpret sin as a slight on God’s honour that could not be overlooked. Given that the nature of the offense was too great for a human to pay, although the debt of honour had to be repaid by a human (because humans committed the offense), Jesus – as fully human and fully God, was the perfect substitute for all of humanity, and by the shedding of his blood, God’s honour was satisfied.
Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory found resonance with a German Reformation thinker, Martin Luther. Luther introduced the notion that salvation was by faith alone, and his understanding of the concept of “faith” links it very closely with intellectual activity – believing that Jesus was the perfect substitute– rather than actions. It is also Luther who – along with Huldrych Zwingli, a Swiss theologian – introduces the doctrine of sola scriptura, which forms the foundation of the modern belief in the infallibility of Scripture. This doctrine had not existed in the church until then, and is still not held by the much older Eastern Orthodox church. Another of Luther’s contributions is the idea that all earthly governments are divinely ordained and ought not to be resisted (in my opinion, a grievous misinterpretation of Romans 13, but that is a discussion for another time).
A hundred years later, building on ideas from Augustine (although Augustine strongly opposed the existence of an external locus of evil), Anselm and Luther, a French theologian, John Calvin, introduced what we now know as the Penal Substitution understanding of atonement, namely that Jesus was being punished by God as a substitute for us, thus saving us from eternal damnation. For the benefit of Evangelical churches, I could add Charles Parham to this mix, who introduced experience-based spirituality into the church – speaking in tongues, ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’, and the like. I could add hundreds of names to the list, each of whom have shaped the theologies of various denominations of Christian thinking. But I think you get the point: two thousand years leaves a lot of time for people to add their bit.
So it is a bit disingenuous and wholly inaccurate to maintain that modern Christianity looks anything like the Christianity of the early church. It doesn’t even look anything like the Christianity of its more recent theologians. Calvin, I suspect, would turn in his grave if he were to see the narcissistic rock-concert style church services so prevalent in the church today, even though we hold very closely to many of his central tenets. ‘What we believe’ today is certainly not ‘what the church has always believed’. It is not even what the church believed two hundred years ago, let alone 2000. In fact, even the very first church is deeply divided along theological lines. Paul, in Galatians 1:6-7, accuses the church in Jerusalem of deliberately twisting the gospel so that what they preach is not good news at all. There has never been a singular unifying theology that defines Christian experience. Theology changes because times change, cultures change, languages change, people themselves change. “What the church has always believed” is a myth. We would do well to disabuse ourselves of that notion.
I would offer, as further proof of how we read things back into the texts, the Nicene creed. Adopted by the First Council of Nicaea in 325, it is probably the earliest generally agreed-upon written statement of Christian faith. It is likely our best insight into “what the church believed”. It was embellished later on but in its original form it looks like this:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; He suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
What intrigues me most is what is not there: three cornerstones of modern Christianity are conspicuously absent. Bear in mind that this gathering of church leaders has come together for the express purpose, among other things, of articulating an explicit statement of faith. Every choice is a thoroughly debated and deliberate one. Omissions are not accidental. With that in mind, consider this: there is absolutely no suggestion that the Scriptures are the inerrant and infallible word of God. I think it is fair to suggest that if this were a core doctrine, it would appear explicitly, as it does in the faith-statements of most modern Protestant and Evangelical churches today. One would have expected holy Scriptures to at least get a mention in a gathering of all the prominent church leaders of the time, especially if they were regarded as being directly from God. Tellingly, the creed omits any reference to Scriptures. Second, there is no mention of hell. Given its prominence in modern preaching, one would expect that had this been a central concern of the early church, it would be mentioned here. Further proof that this is no oversight can be deduced from the fact that in all of the sermons found in the book of Acts, that is, in all of the evangelical work done by Paul’s ministry, there is not a single instance where hell is mentioned. Not one. Not only does Paul not engage in religious terrorism, it appears that eternal damnation (which is a pretty big deal, if it is on the cards) doesn’t even enter Paul’s thinking. Third, at no point does this creed infer that God is the agent behind the suffering of Jesus, in other words that Jesus was being punished by God instead of us. All of these things are beliefs that have for us become normalised, and which we read back into the Scriptures. They are not explicitly there.
So back to the curling analogy. Modern Christians tend to approach the theology of the early church in much the same way as I approached curling: without any understanding of its background, its terminology, its intentions, its protocols. But that doesn’t stop us having a lot to say about it; it doesn’t prevent us from interpreting it through the lenses of our own experience, which tends to end up with an unfair mockery of the original that robs it of its beauty and prohibits genuine engagement by obscuring understanding. If I really wanted to understand curling (which, I am afraid, I still do not), it would require a lot more of me than cursory observations framed within my own prejudicial worldviews. As far as curling is concerned, I am content not to move beyond that. That one thrilling half-hour will be sufficient for several lifetimes. But while that may be acceptable as an approach to curling, it should never be sufficient as an approach to systems of faith, which give shape to our thinking and behaviour, and which consequently shape our societies. The gospel is supposed to be “good news”. I don’t see much “good news” in the threat of fiery destruction at the hands of a schizophrenic, bigoted bully of a god, who is obsessed with human sexuality and is incapable of handling rejection. Fortunately, though, we have been looking at it all wrong. Christianity is not a cold and mirthless faith. Not for everybody, anyway.
I must sum up your contention with one verse from Scripture. “Jesus Christ is the SAME yesterday, today, and forever.” – Heb. 13:8.
It matters not whether 1st century customs differ greatly from modern perspectives. Those who experience a right relationship with God in Christ know well in EVERY generation that Christianity is not a cold and mirthless faith. Because Christ is perpetually the SAME, we are confident of the SAME relationship with God enjoyed by believers in ALL generations.
But if the Scriptures to which Christ expounded upon in Lk. 24 are not the infallible, inerrant Word of God, upon WHAT authority can the above passage be legitimized? As Paul is recorded as having preached, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” 1Cor. 15:19. Why take any teaching from an unreliable source when your eternal destiny is at stake. Why pretend to follow Jesus Christ when you ignore His claims to Scripture? “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Jn. 5:39. Why does He not say “do Not search” knowing that they are NOT inerrant. Why waste time studying such fallible texts?
But no. Jesus said “SEARCH the Scriptures – because they testify of Him. Certainly He would NOT endorse activity if it were like today’s oft cited ‘fake news’. No, His disciples searched those scriptures and found them absolutely reliable “to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY dividing the word of truth”. – 2Tim. 2:15.
No argument based on the omission of information such as you implicate is a compelling one. Witnesses are not asked to testify to what they didn’t see, but only what they observed. When everyone agrees that we call this place ‘earth’, there is no need to reiterate it in subsequent testimony. Those who collectively established a creed cited ideas, concepts, and teaching from Scripture, based upon an agreed assumption of the reliability of the Scriptures. It needed no reiteration within the creed itself.
Sadly, your contention places more reliability on the creed itself than the Scriptures it was derived from. This is illogical and, because it implies rejection of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Scriptures, it is heresy. Of course, I realize certain liberal theologies disagree, but they ALL depend upon private interpretations that revere only Scripture that endorse their dogma. Whenever Scripture corrects their err, they insist THAT Scripture is NOT true. Claiming God’s Word Not infallible, THEY become the infallible interpreters of truth (at least in their minds).
Anything short of infallible, inerrant CANNOT be called the ‘WORD of TRUTH’. Not even a ‘pocket New Testament’ can rightly be called the Word of God except in proper appreciation of its relation to the whole (OT & NT). Peace
I would absolutely agree that Jesus – and by extension God – does not change. That is precisely why the Scriptures cannot be inerrant: they depict a changing God. I am not arguing that God changes, but that our perceptions of God change, even within the Scriptures. Take the following examples:
“If you refuse to obey all the words of instruction that are written in this book, and if you do not fear the glorious and awesome name of the LORD your God, then the LORD will overwhelm you and your children with indescribable plagues. These plagues will be intense and without relief, making you miserable and unbearably sick. He will afflict you with all the diseases of Egypt that you feared so much, and you will have no relief. The LORD will afflict you with every sickness and plague there is, even those not mentioned in this Book of Instruction, until you are destroyed. Though you become as numerous as the stars in the sky, few of you will be left because you would not listen to the LORD your God. Just as the LORD has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the LORD will find pleasure in destroying you. (Deuteronomy 28:58-63)
“For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 18:32)
It is not a contradiction that can be explained away by saying that I am reading it out of context. It clearly depicts a shifting understanding of the nature of God over time, and from the perspectives of different writers. If the text (and I do not believe that the Bible should be considered as one text, but as an anthology, but for the sake of argument, and since you are considering it as one cohesive text, I will use the singular)contradicts the idea of an unchanging God, then it is the text that is at fault, not God. Your doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture contradicts your doctrine (with which I agree) of the immutable character of God.
“But if the Scriptures to which Christ expounded upon in Lk 24 are not the infallible, inerrant word of God, upon WHAT authority can the above passage be legitimized?” What you are arguing here is that the Bible is inerrant not because it is, but that we need it to be inerrant in order to justify our belief in Jesus. In essence, you are suggesting that we would be in trouble justifying faith in Jesus if the Bible were not inerrant. I disagree with that. Our faith in Jesus is not based on whether or not the Bible is flawless in its representation of God. I do not need historical documents about any historical figures to be inerrant in order for me to make robustly defensible claims about them. Just because a text is fallible, it does not follow that it has no points on which it can be trusted. Just because a text is not wholly perfect it does not mean that it is wholly imperfect: It is not an all or nothing question. It is never a waste of time to study even an infallible text. If we require the whole Bible to be inerrant in order to trust that Jesus acted and taught in the ways that the gospel writers suggest, then the credibility of our position is highly questionable to begin with. You are suggesting that there is no basis for faith in Jesus outside of a flawless text. There is a vast body of academically rigorous Christian theological scholarship, led by people passionate about Jesus, and who do not believe in Biblical inerrancy. Clearly it is not true that the only basis for legitimate faith in Jesus is a flawless text.
I would challenge your translation of the John 5:39 passage. Jesus does not say “Search the Scriptures”. It is not an imperative. It translates as: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life…” (in fact, on several occasions, Jesus refers to “your Scriptures..”, with the implication that they are not his authority). He is commenting on the way they use Scripture, not exhorting them to do so. But even if he were, I think he would be correct to demand that we search the Scriptures (searching Scriptures and blindly trusting them are entirely different things. Searching does not require inerrancy, only usefulness). To argue that they do not always depict God accurately is not the same as saying that they have no value and never depict God accurately. They are vital. And they don’t need to be flawless to be important. We need to search them. I don’t deny that. What Jesus is saying here, though, is that the Scriptures function in much the same way as John the Baptist: they point to Jesus. We would never dream of elevating John the Baptist to the same status as Jesus. Why do we think it is acceptable, in the case of the Bible, then, to elevate the signifier to the status of the signified?
“Why take any teaching from an unreliable source when your eternal destiny is at stake”. Are you suggesting that unless we have a right understanding of God we are condemned to hell? Because that thinking would find no Scriptural support. It would place the onus of our salvation squarely on ourselves, dependent on our ability to develop the right theology. Nowhere in the Scriptures is faith defined by right belief, nor do the Scriptures suggest that salvation is dependent upon right belief, or indeed on anything we can do. Salvation belongs to God alone. If we require a perfect understanding of God in order to be saved then we are all doomed.
I am afraid we won’t agree on the issue of the Nicene creed. My argument is not an argument from silence. An argument form silence argues from a lack of evidence. I am not doing that. I am arguing based on the nature of the evidence provided – what it is and what it is not. I think it is grasping at straws to say that the council didn’t need to say Scriptures were inerrant because they all believed it. The explicit purpose of the gathering was to codify the core beliefs. If that is what you are doing – trying to state explicitly what you are about, so as to prevent heresy, then you deliberately make explicit what you all agree on. That is the whole purpose of designing a creed. If you leave something out when you are deliberately trying to clarify key points of common faith, then the omission is significant. It is illogical to argue otherwise. And I am not giving the creed higher regard than the Scriptures – that is to misrepresent my argument. I am not saying that in terms of understanding God the creed is more valuable than Scriptures. I am saying that in order to understand how the early church thought about the Scriptures the creed is informative. I am arguing that the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture is not something that the church has always believed, it is a doctrine from the Reformation, and the creed is illustrative in this regard.
As always, I wish you only peace
Peter – An important distinction = the seeming indication clearly depicts a “shifting understanding of the nature of God over time”, BUT again the emphasis is on INTERPRETATION, and that is NOT a sufficient evidence to negate any claim of inerrancy. A perfect example is the DIFFERENT way each of us (You & Me) approach the text. You, from a belief system embracing the notion that the particular anthology CANNOT all be by divine inspiration, due to the various perspectives and critiques displayed by the human agents. I, understand the 66 books with the various perspectives and critiques displayed by the human agents to be divinely inspired – but by ‘inspired’ I mean God working in and through those writers similar to the way God is working in true believers “to will and to do of his good pleasure” – Phil. 2:13.
Keep in mind that the issue of inerrancy / infallibility was never debated nor creed developed until the 5th – 7th centuries. The canon of Scripture was decided over time by many scholars, who examined the anthologies looking for evidence in each that relates to Christ’s claim that the Scriptures point too Him. Although several texts have been rejected (the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonicals) due to a lack of a consistent theme of redemption, some sects of Christianity have included them, although only as ‘informative’ NOT ‘authoritative’. The reason compelling the consensus that the canon is inspired/infallible centers upon the premise that ONLY the Omnipotent, Omniscient Almighty God could produce such anthologies that uphold a consistent theme throughout the centuries.
While cultures change, and God’s methods of intervention vary, the focus must remain on the Immutability of God, NOT the different ways in which God acts. In Job 38 we read, “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?”. Throughout the chapter, God questions Job’s obstinacy – who is man to question God? Isaiah reminds us of God’s revelation and counsel, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts”. – Isa. 55:9.
A marvelous expression of the Almighty to humanity is the miracle of the preservation of Scripture, which itself claims that It can never be destroyed. The abundance of copies of the Scriptures now available is abundant proof that It has made good Its claim. In many passages the indestructibility of Scripture is pronounced. In 1 Pet. 1:24, 25, it says: “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass, The grass withers, and the flower falls: But the word of the Lord abides forever.” It will NEVER cease to be. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).
Some confuse the term ‘Word of God’. Jesus Christ is the ‘Word made flesh’ while Scripture is the ‘written Word’. Additionally there is the voice of God, the ‘audible Word’. Not to initiate a debate, but doctrines such as the Trinity are often disputed over similar misunderstandings. God is ONE. But God has manifest His presence in manifold ways such as fire, wind, thunder, smoke, and even a dove. God’s character is also an enigma to many because of the various names He has assigned to Himself, many of which enumerate His various qualities.
The OT cites at least seven distinct names of God, all of which are consistent with characteristics embodied in Christ.
YHWH-Yireh — “The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:13-14)
YHWH-Rapha — “The Lord that heals” (Ex. 15:26)
YHWH-Nissi — “The Lord our Banner” (Ex. 17:8-15)
YHWH-Shalom — “The Lord our Peace” (Jud. 6:24)
YHWH-Ra-ah — “The Lord my Shepherd” (Ps. 23:1)
YHWH-Tsidkenu — “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:6)
YHWH-Shammah — “The Lord is present” (Ezek. 48:35)
When critics insist regarding the nature of God, “the text is at fault, not God”, the real discrepancy is in the INTERPRETATION of the text – NOT the text itself! The inerrancy of Scripture DOES NOT contradict the immutable character of God, any more than my disagreement with you impugns upon your character. You remain you, regardless of my impression of you.
As a counselor, I have often shared the following quote with clients who suffer dire communication breakdowns. “’I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Whenever we approach a concept foreign to our predisposed ideas, we usually fail to be objective. Opposing views trigger innate defensive mechanisms. We want to protest and concentrate on formulating the proper response. Instead of LISTENING to the exact message, we tend to merely grasp a word here and there to determine whether our full attention is even warranted.
The result is miscommunication, severe logical disintegration, and failure to reach any mutual, rational conclusions. The results intensify whenever one or both parties feel denigrated. When preconception blocks indisputable evidence to the contrary, the blatantly black & white lines become quite blurred. Because a single minute point has offended, the whole message is presumptuously ignored. Attempting to rightly comprehend spiritual matters is even more frustrating.
God cannot be confined to a box. But our personal assimilation of His immutable character is limited, because the human mind is finite. Experience expands former constraints, but a genuine humility must accommodate all further illumination. Otherwise we remain a heart waxed gross, and ears that are dull of hearing, and eyes closed; lest at any time we should see with our eyes and hear with our ears, and understand in our hearts (Ac. 28:27).
One of the many things experience has taught me, is that Truth is perfectly harmonized. Like a giant thousand-piece puzzle – EVERY piece fits and complements the surrounding pieces, to construct one complete picture. An exercise retail clerks practice involves the continual feeling of authentic currency. Counterfeit bills are randomly seeded in, which the trained clerk instantly spots. Sufficient experience with the genuine provides an innate ability to discern the false.
You wrongly assume about me, “You are suggesting that there is no basis for faith in Jesus outside of a flawless text.” NO, I merely believe that our deeper understanding of God is greatly enhanced by our acceptance and appreciation of a faith in Scripture’s flawlessness. By ‘flawless’ I do NOT mean each term, punctuation, idiosyncrasy. As expressed above, I mean an over-all consistent theme of redemption from book to book, text to text. Like the puzzle analogy, if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t qualify. Obviously, there is ongoing debate over which texts are appropriately authoritative. I agree with you it is not true that the only basis for legitimate faith in Jesus is a flawless text. Many come to faith in Christ who have no access to the Bible. I encountered Christ before embracing my current faith in Scripture.
Your critique of Christ’s claim to be THE point of Scripture is flawed reasoning. Notice how you 1st cite a particular translation that implies a non-imperative phrase. Then you erroneously jump to an unsubstantiated idea that “you search” equates with “your Scriptures..”, with the implication that they are not His authority. The best rendering of the original Greek into English is the one I provided, which does not emphasize a command to search, merely Christ’s observation of their MOTIVE for searching. In modern vernacular – Jesus is saying, “go ahead, keep searching, you’ll never find a hidden code revealing some method to eternal life – I am the resurrection and the Life.”
Again, we agree, “Searching does not require inerrancy, only usefulness”. I only profess to have received validation from the Holy Spirit regarding interpretation of the points I make. I never attempt to claim exclusive knowledge superior to others. With any advice I give a disclaimer is always attached: prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit regarding this. Conclusions are open-ended, on this human side of truth. My convictions are the culmination of the sum of personal research and experience. Nothing more, nothing less – but as a pastor/teacher, counselor/theologian I am constrained to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Pt. 3:15).
I’ve written several Articles about ‘hell ‘and ‘evil’ refuting the relative conventional interpretations accepted by most. Some consider the ideas controversial, other call them heretical. Simply, they are the result of research and scholarly discourses with prominent theologians. I am NOT an authority, so I cite documentation, most of which happens to be Scripture. So, if my sources are errant, my conclusions stand to be as well. This prompts this inquiry.
If you don’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture upon what do you base your knowledge of Christ? NOTICE: I did NOT ask about your FAITH – I implicitly am seeking information regarding your KNOWLEDGE. WHAT do you know and WHY – NOT who do you BELIEVE. Merely, what is the source of your convictions? If not Scripture, then what?
Regarding the Nicaean Creed, I do NOT endorse it as God-inspired, nor its motives. YOU were the one who referred to it first. But I DO NOT consider it “grasping at straws to say that the council didn’t need to say Scriptures were inerrant because they all believed it.” A careful study of church history devoted to specifically Scripture’s infallibility resulted in my conclusion, NOT any draw of a straw!
Sophomoric browsing of topics and then promoting resulting theories as established fact has long been my pet peeve. Academics have always been a priority – I graduated ‘summa-cum-laude’. I share this NOT to boast, but to emphasize the depth of and commitment to my research, and that ONLY to offer qualified effect. In this current ‘copy & paste’ environment too many merely ‘parrot’ what they hear rather than investigating the reliability of their sources. Quality study and adequate research are fast becoming taboo.
I also agree with you – “If you leave something out when you are deliberately trying to clarify key points of common faith, then the omission is significant.” Unfortunately, our finite mind is incapable of performing flawlessly. Nevertheless, omissions must be just as deliberate as the means of clarification to invalidate the result. If as stated, a pre-existing common knowledge is agreed upon, there is no need to re-state it. The fact that every point contained within a creed is directly based upon Scripture (and no other sources) is sufficient grounds for implicating the unspoken reliability of Scripture. To initiate a reliable creed, the doctrines within must be based upon an infallible source. Any deviation would constitute FALSE doctrine.
I did Not assume you to think the creed usurped Scripture. Your explanation is clear, “that in order to understand how the early church thought about the Scriptures the creed is informative”. My contention was merely that if you can’t trust Scriptural accuracy, why trust any derivative of it – even for mere ‘information’. If the source isn’t reliable, what good is the info provided therein?
We agree that faith in Christ, and even a personal relationship with Him is NOT qualified by a particular belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture. Perhaps incorrectly, I thought you were promoting theories of liberal theologians that reject the idea of the inerrancy of Scripture to an extreme. Those are similar to certain liberal politicians who advocate ONLY for the extreme radical left. If your actual individualism questions SOME scriptures while accepting most, then please clarify. I would like to learn of which you believe are absolute truth, and which are false. But always in peace!