I attended a Bible study group awhile ago that addressed the issue of the authority of Scripture, which led to a little discussion about whether all Scripture is really completely and authentically of God, or whether there is some room for human error, etc.
My own view is that there is definitely a need to understand the historical context and the purpose of writing (prophecy versus history, for example, and history versus parable), but I do not believe that discredits the validity of Scripture in any way. Every inconsistency that I’ve heard people bicker about can easily be explained by further understanding the context of both ‘offending’ instances. For example, people tend to think the Gospels are a chronological biography of Jesus and then think inconsistencies between them are errors, when in fact the Gospels are structured by the authors as theological interpretations of Jesus’ life (e.g. John 20:31). They were never intended to be read as diaries or biographies.
With regard to human error, my Bible (NIV) is quick to point out in a footnote where there was any possible variance in translation (and it is never of great doctrinal significance), and the original text was, I believe, copied perfectly and preserved exponentially more times than other works that are accepted as credible, such as Homer’s Iliad.
I have no clue where I got all of this from, except that I’m pretty sure it’s what we talked about at our dinner table while Dad was in seminary for his degrees. He came home and told us what he learned, and I tried my best to remember it… 🙂
All that is to say that I think (and that’s a thoughtful “think”, not an opinionated “think”) that one must be very, very careful before saying that “not all of the Bible is necessarily perfect”, simply because the implication is that somehow you are the one deciding what is acceptable and what is a mistake.
That’s not a gamble I’m willing to take.
If I really believe that what I believe is really true (a nod to the Truth Project for that phrase), then how could I ever have the courage (audacity?) to select for myself what portion of God’s Word that he said was good is valid and which portion is to be written off (or undervalued)?
Wouldn’t that, by default, make me greater than God?
That’s where the logic leaves you.
God’s response to this, I humbly suggest, would likely sound something like Job 38-41.
Perhaps one might suggest that while one can’t point out exactly what isn’t right in the Bible, it is wise (even “spiritual”?) to suggest that one always allow for the possibility that there is an error.
And now I ask, why?
If you really believed that what was in the Bible was true, then there is no way you could qualify that with a caveat of any sort. It’s completely illogical.
You can’t completely believe something, while simultaneously allowing for it to be potentially untrue. It’s impossible, and also makes any belief in any of it completely pointless; if some of it could be untrue, why not all of it? Why bother believing (or pretending to believe) something that may or may not be worth it in the end? It’s pointless. It’s not active belief, but passive toleration.
And if one believes that one can point out exactly what is true and untrue, then we’re back to one elevating oneself to the position of God.
And that’s certainly not a position I’d like to have. Especially if there really is a God on whose toes I’d be stepping!
I believe that the only logical views of Scripture are to either believe in the complete accuracy of the original text (and trust the translations, which have proven themselves, and their footnotes), or to throw the whole book out completely. To do anything else places me in the deciding role of God, and that, I know, cannot be right.
Once one accepts the full validity of Scripture, it is possible to learn so much about God from it. When you find inconsistencies, and you know God to be both constant and unchanging, then you dig deeper. You research; you ask questions to people and to God; you go in assuming in full confidence that God is God, and he obviously meant to reveal an aspect of himself through this, and that is when you start to see a more full and complete picture of God’s character, when you start to discover absolutely awesome things about who he is.
If there are things in the Bible that don’t make sense or seem hard to believe, I think that should actually be quite a reassurance! God is so infinitely bigger than me, and his ways are so awesomely different and above my own ways, and that is exactly how it should be!
I don’t WANT to worship a god who’s only as small as my imagination.
A god small enough to make sense to me is not worth my worship and adoration.
A god big enough to confuse me and leave me humbled in my littleness is exactly the God I can bow before and humbly offer myself. To whom else could I entrust my everything, even the eternal state of my soul?
It isn’t easy, but when I don’t understand the way God works, or what God says or does in the Bible, I thank God (literally!) that his ways are beyond my own.
So, do I believe in a complete literal interpretation of the Bible? No. It wasn’t written that way. It is still of utmost importance to study the Bible and understand the text as it was meant to be understood.
However, I believe that needs to be done carefully and prayerfully, and NOT independently! And the results should never lead to the discounting of Scripture that is God-breathed in its entirety, despite the fact that God graciously allowed human hands the privilege of recording it.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.