Posted tagged ‘Bible’

Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Ehrman – Part 2 – Wooden Fundamentalism

May 25, 2018


This is a continuation of observations in regard to a podcast interview of self-described agnostic, New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, by the atheist, Sam Harris.  In the first installment, I focused on Ehrman’s personal story about “losing his faith” as he transitioned from high school to Moody Bible Institute to Wheaton College to Princeton Theological Seminary. Along the way, he went from fundamentalist to agnostic. In many ways, though, he never left his fundamentalist view of the Bible.

Ehrman says that he began to shed his fundamentalist views as he learned the original languages and began to read scripture in those original languages. He describes how his rigid, nonintellectual reading of the scriptures began to crumble as he discovered issues with the text that didn’t allow such a strict interpretation of a text considered to be inerrant.

As the interview progresses, Erhman relates that he used to believe in a literal rapture, alluding to the Book of Revelations read in light of 1st Thessalonians (being caught up in the air).[1]  Erhman comments that, “I not only believed in the Rapture, I knew it was going to happen in the late 80’s” (followed by a hearty guffaw).  He goes on to describe that his loss of faith was a long process, but the “rapture was one of the first things to go”.

This was Ehrman’s fundamentalism, but “the Rapture” is hardly a point of “doctrine” on which even fundamentalists (whoever they may actually be) agree, let alone the rest of believing world. The verses in the Bible from which the idea of a Rapture has been formulated are few, and they are wrought with difficulty in the interpretation, like the visions in Revelations and other apocalyptic writings. There are many interpretations[2], and the whole idea is quite ancillary to the central tenets of the faith.

A person certainly doesn’t have to believe in the Rapture or in any particular formulation of the rapture to believe in God or to have faith in Jesus Christ, but we often get the peripheral things inextricably intertwined with the essential things in our minds, and it’s hard to untangle them. When peripheral things begin to unravel in that case, they are likely to begin to unwind the essential things if we have bundled them too tightly.

This is a hallmark of a rigid and wooden fundamentalism. It’s an all or nothing way of looking at scripture, that cements secondary things into the primary framework of our belief system. We have to hold on tight to the whole thing to keep the faith. When we allow any part of it to come unraveled, it’s likely to unravel the whole thing. The issue isn’t with Scripture, however; the ishpoliersue is with the approach.

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The Spirit and the Living Word

February 11, 2018

Christianpics.com

While non-Christians may provide many explanations as to why they discard the Bible, the actual reason they don’t believe is that God hasn’t spiritually awakened them. Scripture is very clear on this. “Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and […]

via Why do non-believers reject the Bible? — The Isaiah 53:5 Project

I am reblogging this piece to comment on my own experience, which is something I know many believers relate to. It’s the before and after story of those who know what it means to be born again. Before that time, the Bible seemed to be dead, and after it came alive!

Being born again is experiential and relational. It’s relational in that the experience is intimately connected to God and the Bible, His revelation to us handed down from people who had similar, relational experiences with God. Our relationship and connection with God can be measured, and one of the measuring devices is the Bible.

The writer of Hebrews says that the word of God is living and active. This is the experience of the one who has been born again. The Bible comes alive. When this happens for the first time, it is an experience like feeling the wind whip up. We can’t see it, but we know it.

Paul says that God’s Spirit testifies with our spirit. This is the intimate, relational experience we have with God, though we often confuse it with feelings. Feelings come and go. The spiritual connection is there regardless of the feelings; sometimes it’s there in spite of the feelings!

But, even those who have been born again, can fall away, chasing after feelings and things that distract our attention from the One who loved us with the sacrifice of shedding his glory to become one of us, proving that love to the point of death for us. The Spirit is a still, soft voice, easily shouted down, crowded out and left behind. But He is persistent. Thankfully!

The surest way to connect, or to reconnect, is open the Bible and do it often. Jesus said that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but every word the proceeds from the “mouth” of God. The Bible is our lifeline.

Sometimes our experience wanes. Like a marriage, we lose the spark, but we press on in the commitment to which we have given ourselves. The feelings come and go. The spark will come and go, but out commitment is the constant. And as we devote ourselves to God in prayer, the preaching of the Gospel, reading of the Bible, fellowship and repentance for our shortcomings, we regain that connection that we sometimes “lose” in the crowded, preoccupied and loud recesses of our hearts.

Reading the Bible in Context

September 20, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 1439763 Copyright: sframe

We read the Bible, with writings going back to the Bronze Age, through the lens of our modern experience, understanding and knowledge, often without considering that we need to adjust our lens to understand what we are reading.

I do believe that the Bible is Scripture, conveying an accurate understanding of a timeless, changeless, faithful God, but it is written through the eyes of men who lived at particular times in history in particular cultural and historical contexts. It was written by about 40 men, to be more specific, over a period of about 1500 years with the last writing penned about 1900 years ago.

While Paul tells us that Scripture is inspired by God (“God-breathed”),[1] he means that Scripture was “translated”, written out and conveyed through the vessel of people. I don’t mean to get into the subject of inerrancy or whether the Bible must be read literally in all respects. The way God communicated through people in the Bible is different from the claim that Mohammad made, for instance, in regard to the Quran: that he took down the dictation word for word from Allah.

The Bible does not claim to be a word-for-word communication from God (as if God speaks in Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek). God inspired what was written, but He didn’t dictate it.

I find this at once remarkable and hopeful. (more…)

Should the Bible Be Taken Literally?

September 16, 2017

ChristianPics.co

Whether the Bible should be read and interpreted literally seems to be an open question in the 21st Century. Some Christians, and many people who criticize Christians, seem to think it must be read that the Bible must be taken literally, and it must stand or fall based on its literal interpretation – the Bible is either literally true or literally false, and there is no third position.

So, let me put this out there – these choices present a false dichotomy.

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Follow The Evidence Where It Leads

July 31, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 97354170 copyright: alphaspirit

Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, used to say there are two books of God: the book of Scripture (the word of God) and the book of nature (the work of God). He believed, as did many people who came before him and after him, that all truth is God’s truth. He believed that there is no contradiction at the end of the day between those two “books”. Any apparent discrepancy or conflict is in the interpretation of one or the other of those two sources of the revelation of God. There is no discrepancy or conflict at the level of the facts themselves; the only discrepancy or conflict is in our understanding of Scripture (theology) or nature (science).

Theology and science are, at best, interpretations of the data. Theology and science are not the facts, but interpretations of the facts. Scientists and theologians have disputes and disagreement among themselves and between the disciplines. We all have preconceived ideas on ultimate and intermediate issues, but following the evidence where it leads is the approach most surely to result in the most accurate understanding.

People who identify in both camps of science and theology promote the misconception that science and theology (or science and faith if you will) are incompatible. That is unfortunate, because there shouldn’t be any tension between the two. While science is the study of the natural world and theology is the study of the super-natural world (so to speak), the two should be in perfect harmony if, indeed, a Causal Agent (who we might call God ) exists who caused the universe to begin.

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Can We Trust the Bible?

July 30, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 28826745 Copyright: veric1513

One of the most common skeptical positions in regard to the Bible is that we can’t trust it because it has changed over time, and we don’t even have the original text anymore. We likely don’t have any of the original text, and we have very little text that goes back to the 1st or even 2nd centuries.

The “telephone game” that children play is often used as an illustration of how easily things that are communicated get twisted and changed so that we can’t even tell what the original meaning was by the time the communication comes back to us after being repeated over and over from one person to the next. This illustration is applied to the Bible as proof that it can’t be trusted because it has been translated and copied over and over and over again. How do we even know what the original text said?!

These are serious contentions. An honest person cannot just brush these contentions aside.

Yes faith is a foundation of Christian belief, but Christian faith is not a blind faith as some suppose. Christian faith means putting our trust in God, and not in ourselves. Christian faith does not insist or even ask us to throw out our minds in the process.

In fact, we are specifically instructed to love God not only with our hearts and strength, but with our minds! As I have stated previously, doubt and skepticism is not a sin according to the Bible. Thomas doubted, and he became known for his skepticism but he was a follower of Jesus. Though he was skeptical, he came to believe.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to “test everything”, and hold on to what is good and true. I call this “honest skepticism”, which should not be confused with skepticism for the sake of skepticism. Anyone who is skeptical of everything, even the certainty of truth, should not even bother looking into anything because the exercise is pointless for the pure skeptic who is unwilling to commit to any truths.

(Ironically, the contention that there is no objective truth is a self-defeating statement. The statement, itself, is offered as an objective truth, therefore it isn’t even true of itself!)

But we digress. Whether the Bible can be trusted is the question? So, let’s dive in.

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Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

July 7, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 102795786 Copyright: monkeybusiness

This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh, so, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.

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