Moral Contradictions

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Question of Faith

Vacation Bible School started tonight at church and I attended the adult class. Dr Marsh's theme is the relevancy of the Old Testament. Tonight he gave an overview of it and laid groundwork for the next 4 nights.

He brought a Hebrew Bible with him and showed everyone the right-to-left and the characters that none of us understood. He explained the slew of translations and revisions and how an English word doesn't always match up with the Hebrew version. The lack of vowels and punctuation were noted as well.

He then touched on the folks who like to throw words such as "infallible" and "inerrant" around and how they believe that if you question one word of the Bible, you compromise the entire thing. Dr. Marsh noted that many of these folks who say "we believe every word of the entire Bible" are actually quite selective... for instance, none of those folks has more than one spouse. Almost all probably eat ham.

At the end, the pastor's wife off-handedly made a comment that "if we knew everything about the Bible, what is the purpose of faith?".

I'd like to inject my own personal beliefs. The more I study the Bible, the less I feel like I know. I am overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of God and his grace... I'm deeply humbled. I just don't understand those who feel like they know all the answers.

"God is infallible, not your interpretation of the Bible".

6 Comments:

  • JESUS CHRIST is the Word of God, the Revelation of God to us, the book (bible) is simply a record of how God has acted in human lives and how He calls us to understand His love as exemplified by His Son, Jesus. It was written and preserved by flawed men struggling to transmit what they believed was God's Spirit speaking to us. My trust and faith is in Jesus, not in this book that transmits His record to me.

    By Blogger Monk-in-Training, at Tuesday, June 28, 2005 11:14:00 PM  

  • Hello Nathan,

    I would like to comment on your post. The Bible was fully inspired by God to mankind. We must fully grasp this thought for all of Salvation rests upon the truth of it. If the Old Testament recordings are not true, how do we come to believe that the New Testament recordings are true and valid?

    2 Timothy 3:16
    All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    2 Peter 1:21
    For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.

    While I understand your teacher's point, I disagree with the intent of the message. It seems that the intent is to shed doubt upon the translation since the English does not exaclty match the Greek and Hebrew text.

    What we need to understand is that the same God who inspired "ALL SCRIPTURE" is the same God who has preserved "ALL SCRIPTURE". Have you studied how we obtained our English version? Men lost their lives for translating the English Bible. God made a way for it to be preserved and protected even through the evil leadership of years past!

    To God be the glory, great things He has done!

    Josh Buice
    Practical Theology Discussions
    http://www.joshbuice.blogspot.com

    By Blogger Josh Buice, at Friday, July 01, 2005 1:44:00 PM  

  • Josh,

    Thank you for posting.

    First and foremost, we have a fundamental disagreement. Questioning the translation or God does not imply doubting either. Faith is not the opposite of doubt.

    As I hope you're learning at Southern, you must question the Greek/Hebrew text. One of the fundamental splits between Catholicism and Protestantism exists because in one verse (when Jesus conversed with the convicts on the cross) one translation uses a comma while the other doesn't... and the original text didn't have punctuation. Again, you must consider the source. Muslims believe the Koran should only be read in Arabic, with many Jews only trusting Hebrew.

    The Bible wasn't written in English. You mentioned the English Bible. There is no one "English Bible". Just by the fact that there's dozens of English translations gives credence to the fact that to gain full understanding you need to broaden your scope a bit.

    I've spent very little time with Hebrew because it's totally beyond me. The Old Testament was written in a language devoid of punctuation, spaces, or vowels. For the New Testament, Greek has words of which there is no suitable English translation. Take "love" for instance. Eros, agape, etc... Isn't there like 5 different words? Eros and agape have completely different meanings and can vastly change the context of a verse. Trying to ascertain exactly what was written is a worthy exercise meant to increase faith, not doubt it.

    Whether the Bible is inerrant or not doesn't shake my faith. I believe God is inerrant and in the end His will get accomplished no matter what is said on this blog or whereever... Note that even those who claim the Bible is inerrant (and are the biggest propenents of this belief) have hedged their belief "with 16 (or whatever) exceptions" (Paige Patterson, Paul Pressley, Al Mohler and other Southern Baptist leaders yell about this the most... if you need a source I can get one later tonight). They've literally said something to the effect of "it's inerrant except for 'this' 'this' and 'this'". Do I tell my wife I've been faithful except for 16 exceptions? That's not the definition of "inerrancy"... so does it truly matter in the end? Debating this perverts the intent of Christianity. Will theological differences matter when Jesus comes back?

    Take the Samuels and Chronicles... both give two different numbers for David's army at the same point in time. Does this force my entire belief in God to collapse? No. But when you talk in such absolutes, you do a dis-service to Christianity overall as those who dare to question their faith are ostracized.

    All that said, my faith is bigger than errors in the Bible. I believe that God is inerrant and that He speaks through all translations. I believe questioning the meaning of a passage in order to understand the true meaning furthers one's faith rather than destroying it. Questioning can be inquisitive in nature, not doubting. Questioning doesn't throw my whole belief in jeopardy. Because the translation isn't perfect, questioning must happen for full appreciation of the inspired Word.

    I also believe that forcing one's personal intrepration on the Bible to control a denomination at the cost of division subverts the true intent of Jesus's call on our lives.

    So no, my pastor wasn't intending to spread doubt... he intended to further understanding of God's will and how we should live our lives. He just wasn't telling us what to believe, but challenging our faith. Growing up and watching my Southern Baptist denomination turn to the politics of persuasion instead of personal introspection has saddened me.

    I do not believe that if an English word in the Bible doesn't match up to a Greek/Hebrew word, it makes the whole Bible untrue. Asking questions of God or the true meaning of His word isn't bad... Read Job or Ecclesiastes or the 70 "cursing" Psalms... heck, read what Jesus said on the cross as He was dying.

    In short (ha! it's about time) I just cannot agree with the fact that my pastor was spreading doubt. Force-feeding a congregation one's personal intrepretation instead of challenging them to discover the truth undercuts the Holy Spirit's role to reveal God through His word. That's a terrible injustice to anyone who seeks further understanding of their faith and God's role in their lives.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Friday, July 01, 2005 6:29:00 PM  

  • Nathan,

    1. I would like to see the source of your comments toward "Paige Patterson, Paul Pressley, Al Mohler and other Southern Baptist leaders".

    2. I understand Greek and Hebrew languages. I fully understand that the Bible was not written in English.

    3. How would your Pastor preach 2 Timothy 3:16? Would he pass over the word "all"? What is the definition of "all"?

    4. If God is inerrant, would it be possible for His Holy Word that He inspired to be any less inerrant?

    5. Can God inspire and preserve His Word over time and through the wicked attacks of the past?

    6. Why do you suggest that the SBC has turned into a "politics of persuasion instead of personal introspection"?

    7. The SBC had what was known as a "Conservative Resurgence" years ago. This Resurgence was a moving away from "liberal" theology such as "errors" within the Holy Bible....etc. Sure, politics was used --- and might I say ---- used well, but it was never about politics. It was about the elevation of God's Holy Word!

    Psalm 138:2

    Josh Buice

    By Blogger Josh Buice, at Tuesday, July 05, 2005 2:00:00 PM  

  • 1. I got the source from Walter B. Shurden's book "Not a Silent People", copyright 1995. Here is his text: He is describing the Moderate vs Fundamentalist controversy (or resurgence) - 'Fundamentalists argued that the original documents of the Bible contained no scientific, historical, geographical, or theological errors. This is a theory known as "biblical inerrancy." According to Fundamentalists, if one were not an "inerrantist", one did not believe the Bible, despite that fact that both Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler admitted that we do not have an accurate text of the Bible.'

    Here is the note/source: 'While maintaining no mistakes in the original autographs of the Bible, Patterson said that grammatical mistakes and "transcribal inadvertencies" exist so that "we can now arrive at a 98-percent accurate text." See "Patterson Group Seeks Long Range Control of SBC," Baptist Press, 21 April 1980, 4. Pressler also spoke of a "few scribal errors which do not affect any doctrine." See "An Interview with Judge Paul Pressler," The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention (this was a special issue of The Theological Educator, a magazine published semiannually by the faculty of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) 1985, 22.

    98% /= 100%... Especially for people who have a black and white view that "if one were not an "inerrantist", one did not believe the Bible", qualifying 98% and 100% seems a bit nuanced.

    2. Like I said, I hope you did. :) [Oh, this is completely an after-thought as I proof-read this... I was looking for the exact verse that said "women should have their heads covered" and be snarky and say "How should that be preached?"... yeah, not mature I know... but this is serious: Since there's so much uproar over women in church and all that... I recently heard that in greek there's gender-specific words for "he" and "she"... but our Bible's "he" comes actually from a gender-neutral word... do you know anything about that? My resident Greek to be expert, my Seminarian wife, hasn't taken Greek yet]

    3. I will not speak for my pastor, especially after not hearing him preach on this verse. I can probably guess, but I will not. If I were to preach it, I'm not sure I'd equate "God-breathed" to "inerrant". God breathed through humans... and human hands are imperfect, God is not. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see 98% as being "inerrant". Which brings me to repeat an earlier question: Is one's faith for naught if the Bible is found inerrant? I'd like to think that God is inerrant, even if there's only a 98% accurate text, I'd still believe. Which brings me to a further point... at the end of the day, why can't we lay our minute theological differences aside, believe that our Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior and died for us, and work to further His will? Why must we waste time arguing like this when it really doesn't matter?

    4. I believe that is a personal belief to be arrived on a personal level. If it works for you, that's great, but it's not worth dividing a denomination over IMO.

    5. Please re-phrase or add more specifics as I'm not sure how to answer.

    6. Perhaps removing the 1963 wording of the Baptist Faith & Message that says "this is not a creed" and then forcing missionaries, IMB employees, Seminary employees, etc etc to sign it. Baptists aren't a creedal people, right?

    7. There is no room for honesty, love, and fellowship within politics. Politics corrupts. We can disagree all day long about various theological differences, but I strongly disapprove of the "top-down" tactics to take over a denomination that prides itself in autonomous churches and the priesthood of the believer. It was also about the elevation of a certain few's interpretation of God's Holy Word at the exclusion of many Godly men and women. It elevated petty differences to erase a lot of good things that were happening at the time. Imagine if the Southern Baptists had reunited with Northern Baptists (now American Baptist and like other denominations) after the Civil War, respected the true Baptist beliefs, and worked together to influence society and win souls for the Lord?

    My biggest contention is that the SBC is no longer "Baptist". In some instances I would say the "Southern" part is the predominant focus, but that's a snark attack. I'm about to embark on a thorough study of the Baptist Heritage and I'll get back to you once that's done in a few months... but from a simple layman's view, everything that I was taught growing up that was "Baptist specific" or a pride seems to be marginalized these days.

    I also believe that to a large degree, everyone has their own personal bias and can look at the Bible and justify their personal belief. Instead of honestly looking at the Bible and saying "What does it say about this issue" many of us, myself definitely included, say "I believe this, where is justification of it in the Bible" and then write off any contradicting verses.

    And lastly, I'm completely and utterly turned off by the "We're right and everyone else is wrong" attitude of the SBC. I was led to believe that we as Baptists, unlike Catholics, for instance, are allowed to have differences of opinion yet still worship together. Instead of the upper echelons of the church commanding what we should believe, a Baptist (and a church) was allowed to develop a theology based around Biblical and true Baptist principles. I believe that is why Baptists are so numerous... because we were a "big tent"... even with so-called "liberals". For this reason I'm troubled by the SBC pull-out of the Baptist World Alliance, a very large and successful organization that the SBC began. I'm also troubled by stands and assertions taken by people you mention in your blog where you talk about Bob Russell speaking at SBTS and how "some people disagree with Bob Russell being invited to preach in the Chapel Services due to the fact that he is not a Baptist, and after all, we believe the Baptist doctrines are the correct interpretations of Scripture." My ingrained understanding of Christianity and of human response and emotions smack me with a feeling of arrogance and playground bullyism after hearing about stuff like this.

    Whew. Again, a whole-hearted congratulations to anyone who made it through that.

    Luke 10:25-28; Acts 2:17-21

    --------------------------------

    Josh, I do hope that I am not coming across in a malicious way... I admit my faith is ever-growing and my knowledge of our Lord and our Baptist Heritage is continually challeged and overwhelmed with the more I learn. I very easily could have read your comments and taken the reacted in an angry way... instead I welcome the opportunity to try to understand more about what's out there and what's going on. I hope those that read this post will take away whatever it is that the Holy Spirit would lead them to. This blog is an exercise for me to flesh out my ever-growing faith and theology, so again, I apologize for its incompleteness and I pre-emptively cede the debate to you based on the fact that I don't have all the answers, nor will I ever.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Tuesday, July 05, 2005 10:50:00 PM  

  • Nathan,

    Thank you for your response. My points are as follows:

    1. The inerrancy subject is very important. While we may not have any original documents to pull and compare from, we have faith that our God is big enough to inspire and preserve the Word through the years. A scribe who strikes through one Greek word and includes another by mistake cannot possibly change the inerrancy of the Bible, specifically since it never changes the doctrines of the Bible.

    2. You cannot study the Bible in topical studies….it must be searched out through expository studies. In these studies the truth about these alleged errors will surface and be laid to rest without any problems at all. The Word never contradicts itself, never has any doctrinal errors, and it is 100% inspired by God.

    3. My blog discussion last month on Bob Russell and his doctrine is very important. It was not an attempt to bash anyone else or to appear arrogant in my statements. I truly apologize if that was your take when you read the subject. I only hope you read through the discussions rather than pulling an opinion from the title or spring board article. The subject matter of baptismal regeneration is important and should be discussed in its fullest extent. Anything added to the Salvation equation equals heresy and should be avoided and exposed. If you read the doctrinal statement of the Southeast Christian Church, you will quickly discover that they have feet on both sides of the fence. My point is that when we welcome such doctrine into our Chapel, it breeds confusion and can breed doctrinal errors in the future.

    4. I will agree with you on the subject of politics. I hate politics! The political battle between the liberals and the conservatives mentioned on your blog was not based on a desire for power or fame. It was based on the desire to remove liberal heresy from our Seminaries across the nation. People like Molly Marshall have no business teaching false doctrine in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or any Seminary for that matter. She broke many of the Abstract of Principles which must be signed in order to teach in the Seminary, and the intentions to remove specific individuals such as Ms. Marshall are now quite clear to anyone who does an unbiased study.
    ---------------------------
    I hope you understand that my response to your blog was not arrogantly written or intended for harm. It was to discuss the importance of elevating Scripture to its proper level of God breathed and inspired without any mixture of error.

    To God be the glory, great things He has done!

    Josh Buice
    Practical Theology Discussions
    http://www.joshbuice.blogspot.com

    By Blogger Josh Buice, at Wednesday, July 06, 2005 1:15:00 PM  

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