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Can the Bible still be God-breathed even if it "contradicts" itself?


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I hope this is the appropriate place for a discussion of this question! I don't really view it as a consideration of doctrine so much as a consideration of meta-doctrine.

The question has interested me for some time, but I wasn't able to articulate it fully until today. I can pose the question now as a result of three activities in my life impinging upon each other.

1. My physical health has become much more fragile in the last six months or so. I am on oxygen. I have emergency antibiotics to take immediately if I think I'm coming down with a cold. My kidneys are not sending the proper chemical signals to my bone marrow to tell it to generate more blood cells. Consequently I have anemia that varies from day to day. Sometimes, when I'm getting a good supply of oxygen to my brain, everything is fine. Other times, when I'm not getting sufficient O2 to the ol' grey matter, my thinking is sluggish, and my movements are erratic. I wear a "Help" button on my wrist in case I find myself incapacitated.

This morning I had Hebrew from 8 am till 9. While I was sitting there, I had to ask myself, am I up to translating these sentences off the cuff along with the rest of the students? I had to assess the speed of my mind. It wasn't good enough. This afternoon, I walked 6 blocks (round trip) to make a cash deposit at the Credit Union. Before deciding to leave home, I had to assess what I'd have to do to make it back. I knew places where I could cross the street with a light, and where I could sit if I needed to, The biggest question was, will I be steady enough? will I fall down somewhere along the way? I decided to go, and even though there was a time or two when my feet stuttered, I did okay.

I've had to become extremely conscious of everything that is going on inside my body (including when I poop and when I only fart), and WHY it's happening. I'll tell you what I was thinking about during the walk... but first, the other two activities...

2. I decided to take Hebrew this fall. I've ALWAYS been intimidated by it before, probably because I can't do fancy calligraphy, but one of the first things I found out was that I don't have to do fancy calligraphy. Hebrew has a very simple "block" or "square" style that is easy enough for me to do with mechanical pencils on lined paper. It also has a cursive script that our prof uses on the board. It's simpler than English cursive. I took a couple of years of Greek between the fall of 2011 and the spring of 2013, so I have some experience to make comparisons.

I was surprised to find out that Hebrew is NOT an inflected language, which means parsing it is much simpler than parsing Greek.

Greek definitions are like saltine crackers, flat, precise and regular, with a modicum of flavor and a functional minimalism. Greek definitions are fragile like crackers, too! Hebrew definitions are like fruitcakes, multi-dimensional masses of possibilities, with fruit and nuts and other less identifiable things mingling in an irregular melange. Hebrew definitions will outlast mankind. The meaning of a Hebrew word, whether you are trying to find the right one to use, or trying to figure out how to translate one from a text, depends on how you slice the definition. Slice it one way, and the meaning will be entirely different than if you had sliced it another way.

3. The AU School of Theology is not and never has been fundamentalist The Church of God Reformation Movement (Anderson, Indiana) never participated in the fundamentalist conferences of the very early twentieth century. Therefore, the SOT has never taught that "the Word of God was perfect in the original autographs." Likewise, the SOT has never been caught up in dispensationalism. Some of the professors hold with inerrancy. Others do not. They have agreed to disagree on that topic. But students come to AU from many different denominational backgrounds, and the ones who come from evangelical protestant faith communities often find it jarring that so many of the things they were taught about the Bible in Sunday school just aren't true (those Sunday school teachings do not accord with objective reality).

Evangelical protestants (called "fundamentalists" before 1925) teach that since all scripture is God-breathed, and God is perfect, there can be NO CONTRADICTIONS in the Bible. If there is only ONE contradiction in the Bible, then the whole thing falls apart, it cannot be God-breathed, and NONE OF IT is true! This is something we all have to be aware of, and be caring for, when we deal with students who have not been here long enough to realize that the SOT is deliberately teaching that the love of God trumps doctrinal purity.

-----

So, what was I thinking about as I staggered toward the Credit Union?

Before I set out, while considering how reliable my gait might be, I thought of dynamic balance as opposed to static balance, the sort of thing a bicycle manifests. I googled it without finding much, but I found A LOT about the relation between static and dynamic STABILITY. Apparently it's a subject of interest among airplane designers. A plane is statically stable sitting on the ground. When a plane is in flight, there are many multi-dimensional forces acting on the plane. When a plane is moving along at a steady pace and height, with a steady attitude, it is considered to be dynamically stable. When anything happens to change any of those many, multi-dimensional forces, the plane enters into an oscillating movement. It swings back and forth in some direction. There can be three degrees of oscillation: dampened oscillation that gradually returns the plane to dynamic stability, recurring oscillation whose amplitude neither grows nor shrinks, and driven oscillation where the amplitude feeds back into itself until all control is lost.

So there I was intently focused on my internal processes so I wouldn't keel over on the sidewalk, thinking in terms of oscillation, when it dawned on me. Everything going on in me, from the air entering and exiting through my nose and mouth, to the cellular respiration where electrons are carried back and forth to power the chemical functions in each of my cells, in my brain and muscles, ALL OF IT, consists of oscillating motion in dynamic relationships. Those motions are generated and balanced by TENSIONS, contradictions of levels of energy that produce and direct MOVEMENT.

Life IS NOT static! It's very nature is imbalance and movement. The God of the Hebrews was NOT static! The imbalance and movement of life in creation is a direct reflection of the imbalance and movement of the Creator. If the Bible is God-breathed, it could NOT be static! The words of ink may sit there statically on the paper, but the ideas behind those words are in imbalance and produce flow... the flow of ideas.

Not only is the Bible full of contradictions, the very language of it is necessarily contradictory. Poetic knowledge is much more real than propositional knowledge because poetic knowledge is directly drawn from concrete human experiences, expressed in similes and metaphors. Contradiction (tension) is automatically part of the expression of poetic truth because no comparison (simile or metaphor) has a 100% correspondence to objective reality. Propositional knowledge is an expression of relationship farther abstracted from direct human experience. The language of propositional knowledge is mathematics, and as far as scientists have gone into such things as the Higgs Boson, quantum mechanics and string theory, their math still doesn't have a 100% correspondence to objective reality either.

Where did the idea of a static God who cannot contradict himself come from? Not from the Hebrew Bible, that's for sure! It came from Greek philosophers who defined perfection as static balance (that lacks the ability to move or be moved). Greek philosophers would have found Genesis 1:2b, "...the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters..." SCANDALOUS!

The idea that God can be a living thing is STILL scandalous to far too many people. The idea that his Word, the flow of ideas behind the ink on the paper, can be a living thing is almost inconceivable.

All for now... more later...

I love you ALL, and am thankful for your companionship through all of this!

Steve

Edited by Steve Lortz
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I buried Paul. Sincerely, The Walrus

There is a thing we've been taught to do at Anderson University (all the way from freshman introductory Bible courses to grad school exegetical papers) called the hermeneutic or the exegetical circle.

I don't understand why you have a hang-up about the authorship of Luke-Acts. There are parts of the NT whose authorship is very much open to question, especially Paul's pastoral epistles, and serious

Interesting post, Steve.

If we think of God in parental terms, well heck, a parent treats each of his or her several children a bit differently according to the child's personality, abilities, quirks - and age. And sometimes the instruction to one child differs (and may contradict) that given to another child. How does the parent want to train, guide or discipline each child? What is necessary to bring out the best in each child? Which less desirable aspects need to be curbed? What child really understands what his parents' overall goal is? And what parent treats his 50 year old kids like the five year olds they once were?

God has a bigger picture than any human parent. His vision stretches from eternity to eternity. Way far bigger than we can begin to imagine. There might be apparent contradictions. Actual contradictions. Maybe when we see from the perspective of eternity, they won't be contradictions at all.

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I hope this comes up as a separate post...

Our comprehension of words in our native languages varies: even simple nouns have cultural overlays. Verbs have other connotations. Tenses have different meanings: "I walked" is different in meaning from "I was walking" or "I used to walk" and even "I ambled, I paced, I strode, I dawdled," but all of these (and others) are in past tenses relating to similar actions.

If you consider what words meant even 100 years ago, you'll find many have changed meanings, sometimes quite radically, even to meaning almost their opposites. What did such a word mean 1,000 years ago (if it even existed)? In pre-Christ times (BC) there are Egyptian, Sumerian, and other ancient texts. Do these translate exactly? Maybe, but more likely not. How can we possibly know the full range of meaning of an ancient word? The cultural nuances escape us, even if we have similar words to describe the nuances we do perceive.

And when it comes to more abstract words, was "love" the same 100 years ago as now? 1000 years ago? I am not sure that we can say it is. Because human beings have developed huge cultural differences in how they relate to each other.

All that can be said is: we should love one another, as God loves us, and we should love and be kind, to the best of our ability and understanding of what that means.

The imagery of the Bible is perhaps more helpful. We can all understand a mother hen tucking her chicks under her wings. Even if a mother hen (probably) doesn't perceive "love" exactly as a human being does.

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For all these years, I was intimidated by Hebrew, but when I started taking the class, I was shocked and amazed by how EASY it it! Much easier than Greek, yet vastly different from English.

Hebrew HAS NO TENSES! NO PAST, PRESENT OR FUTURE!

Action is either completed or not completed. Some words have their completion in the past, others in the future. There is a grammatical "switch" that changes future to past, and past to future... but there is no concept of action completed at the present time!

Just think how THAT blows "perfect in the original autographs" out of the water!

Love,

Steve

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Sometimes I think people overthink things too much. It's a book. Or, more precisely, a collection of books and writings. It has multiple authors. They didn't always agree on some points. In fact, sometimes their ideas were in direct opposition with each other. There is not even a universally accepted order (canon) in which the writings should be listed. To think there can be no contradictions seems a little delusional or at least unrealistic. That's why people have contrived methodologies, such as dispensations, to whom it's written, etc. to resolve the confusion. The idea of being God-Breathed is a self declaration, promoted by Paul. It's a little bit like me declaring myself to be an expert. I ought to know because, well, I'm an expert. It's circular. No one can ever really know that they know that they know. Just accept it for what it is and accept that there will be things you will never be able to figure out.

My 2 cents (adjusted accordingly for current inflation)

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Like Steve, I am not sure this topic is in the right place. There are two ways to approach the central question being asked:

1. It is possible for something to be God-breathed in the first place, which raises the question: How would we know? What qualities would a "God-breathed" writing have that distinguishes it from other writing? I'll give Wierwille credit for answering the question with qualities that are unequivocal and testable. But that doesn't make it Biblically accurate, because the Bible itself does not lay down any such qualities. The Bible never says that it is without error or contradiction. In fact, the Bible lacks the self-awareness it would take to define itself in any way. Paul did not know when he was writing Timothy (which he didn't, but that's another story) that his letters would be part of a collection that would later be referred to as "the Bible" and analyzed and dissected nearly 2,000 years later. The writer of Mark, who apparently was not terribly familiar with Palestinian geography, had no idea that three gospels would be written after his (in fact, many more were written, but only three others made the canon). Luke was aware that other accounts existed, and it's clear he had a copy of Mark's gospel with him when he plagiarized composed his account of the life of Jesus. But he had no idea the gospel of John was on its way.

So it strikes me as unfair to hold the Bible to Wierwille's standard of what it means to be God-breathed. However, since Wierwille does offer us a definition of the qualities that a God-breathed work will exhibit, it is perfectly fair to hold his own writings to that standard. Thus, Actual Errors in PFAL is fair. Actual Errors in the Bible is fair only insofar as determining the accuracy of its claims. However, nothing proves the Bible is or is not God-breathed because no criteria are set forth in the Bible to determine such a conclusion. The best we have is, is it useful for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness? The answer to that, of course, is yes, BUT that doesn't make it God-breathed. Any work can be useful for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness.

In short, there is no way, Biblically, to determine that something is God-breathed, and no way, Biblically, to determine that it isn't. The best we can do is determine that sthe Bible meets some definition of God-breathed. It doesn't meet Wierwille's by a longshot.

2. This being "questioning faith," it is fair game in this forum (in any forum really, but in this one by design) to question whether God-breathed is possible in the first place. That is, there would have to be a God for anything to be God-breathed. I see nothing in the Bible that leads me to believe it was anything other than the product of its time. Certainly, as a moral guide, we are way, way ahead of the Bible in moral advancement (as I believe we have amply demonstrated in the morality thread). You can find lots of morality in the Bible, but there's lots of immorality as well, and that, to my way of thinking, argues strongly against the Bible as the God-breathed word according to any definition.

Would a God-breathed word advocate for the death penalty for petty offenses? I would think not. Is picking up sticks on the Sabbath a petty offense? I would think so. Therefore...

So as a strictly doctrinal question, without undermining faith, I would answer yes, the Bible can be God-breathed even though (there's no "if" about it) it contradicts itself.

And as a question posed in "Questioning Faith," I would answer no, because the Bible fails to demonstrate that this God even exists outside the imagination of the writers and readers.

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I will be praying for the good or improved health of our friend Steve Lortz. Let's all pray for him now.

Regarding this subject, the bible is often figurative and not literal. Sometimes if it is taken literally and not figuratively it will contradict itself. What we need for understanding and then interpretation is the mind of Jesus Christ. Below is an example from the scriptures of different interpretations by different people. And the original sin of mankind from the first chapters of Genesis written in a figurative manner showed the different mindsets that we can all have at times. Sometimes we follow the deception of the God of this world and sometimes we follow the mind of Jesus Christ the saviour of mankind. Fortunately, Jesus Christ is referred to as the second Adam for our mindset example to follow now.

John 8:1-15 New King James Version (NKJV)

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.

3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,

4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”

6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. ”Jesus Defends His Self-Witness

13 The Pharisees therefore said to Him, “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true.”

14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.

15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

Edited by Mark Sanguinetti
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According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was born during the Quirinian Census.

According to both Matthew and Luke, Herod was alive when Jesus was born.

Herod was dead for a decade at the time of the Quirinian census. There was no overlap. There is no figurative language that will fix this error/contradiction.

The Bible contradicts itself. A lot.

Edited by Raf
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In Matthew, Jesus and his family don't come to live in Nazareth until after he is born, after the Magi visit (he's a toddler by then), after the flight to Egypt, Matthew 2:22.

In Luke, Jesus' parents lived in Nazareth before he was born (unmentioned in Matthew). Jesus comes to Nazareth eight days after he's born.

Now, it would make some sense if Matthew 2 wasn't so clear about the reason Joseph went to Nazareth. It wasn't a return to his hometown. It's a flat-out contradiction.

But ok.

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I raised those two points to demonstrate that the contradictions are not matters of failing to recognize figurative language, nor can they be dismissed with passive accusations of demonic influence.

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Thanks for your input, Mark, and Raf!

One of the reasons I considered and finally decided to post this question on this particular forum is this... The position of fundamentalist, evangelical protestants is this: "If it's God-breathed, it can't contain any contradictions, because God is perfect, and as such, he cannot contradict himself. And it's ALL God-breathed, so if there is ONLY ONE CONTRADICTION, then the WHOLE thing falls apart."

It seems to me that this is not so much the statement of a self-evident truth as it is a statement of faith. It would appear that it is a statement of faith that former fundamentalist, evangelical protestants continue to hold even after they have lost faith in the Bible and God. It is faith in this statement that I am questioning on this thread.

My interest in this question stems from much more than my former involvement with TWI and its offshoots. For the last four-and-a-half years I have been involved with furthering the education of youngsters in the Bible. Those coming from a fundamentalist, evangelical protestant background have difficulties, sometimes severe difficulties, dealing with the objective fact that, as Raf has so aptly put it, "The Bible contradicts itself. A lot."

So, where am I going with all this? First, a poem from Tolkien:

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not touched by the frost.

That's a quote from the chapter "Strider" in The Fellowship of the Ring. The Holy Spirit used that piece of scripture to guide me during the 6 1/2 years before I realized I could read and understand what the Bible says, and the much longer period before I realized who the Holy Spirit actually is. I wandered before I got involved with TWI, I wandered while I was involved with TWI and its offshoots, and I have continued to wander to this day. I was wandering as I walked to the Credit Union last Friday. I am going to wander in the rest of this post... but I was NEVER lost, the Holy Spirit has been with me all the way.

Our first peregrination will be, not into the topic of what does it mean to be God-breathed, but into "what does it mean to be breathed?" What IS breath? How does it work?

Breath is an oscillatory motion. Air moves back and forth between two extremes. One of those extremes consists of the lungs. The other extreme is the atmosphere. But the oscillatory motion goes deeper than that. Oxygen is carried away from the lungs as molecular oxygen, O2 and back to the lungs in the form of CO2. But the oscillation goes deeper than that! In the process of cellular respiration, electrons flow back and forth to power the other processes that comprise life itself.

The ancients didn't know all the scientific facts of cellular respiration, but they knew the truth of it. the LORD God breathed into man's nostrils, and he became a living being. The life of the flesh is in the blood. One expression of life is oscillatory motion. The literal, concrete definition of "spirit" is "air in motion", the same as "wind" or "breath". Literal spirit (breath) became so closely associated with life that the word took on the figurative meaning of "life-force".

It's possible to view the motion of wind as random, but the ancients did not do so. The Hebrews viewed the motion of wind as being subject to the will of the Spirit. The Stoics developed a whole science of tonic or spirit motion, which bore some similarities to oscillatory motion. When Jesus said "God is Spirit" in John 4:24, he wasn't saying "God is a bunch of air blowing around." Jesus was saying, "Whatever it is that God is composed of, it is life-giving and it is in oscillatory motion. It is also related to all this other Spirit stuff we're talking about."

All for now... my oscillatory motion is dampening...

Love,

Steve

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I think the bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you believe the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed, then you must conclude that it can contain errors and contradictions and still be God-breathed.

Because it DOES contain errors and contradictions. If you look at the stories myths and legends as LESSONS, you can glean something from them. But the moment you call those stories HISTORY, you run into trouble. Some of the stories are history. Many, many, many are not. That Jesus walked is probably history. That he walked on water is probably not.

If you are going to tie your faith in the inspiration of the Bible to a belief that this book is an accurate telling of events that took place in history, without error or contradiction, then you are going to be walking on a very fragile faith.

In my opinion.

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I think the bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you believe the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed, then you must conclude that it can contain errors and contradictions and still be God-breathed.

Because it DOES contain errors and contradictions. If you look at the stories myths and legends as LESSONS, you can glean something from them. But the moment you call those stories HISTORY, you run into trouble. Some of the stories are history. Many, many, many are not. That Jesus walked is probably history. That he walked on water is probably not.

If you are going to tie your faith in the inspiration of the Bible to a belief that this book is an accurate telling of events that took place in history, without error or contradiction, then you are going to be walking on a very fragile faith.

In my opinion.

I agree with everything you said in your post, Raf.

There's only one thing in the Bible that has got to be a statement of reality, only one thing that a person has got to believe, and that one thing is that God raised Jesus from the dead.

When I was 24 years old (1973), I was losing control of my life, literally and on the spot. I had already lost control of my breathing, and was hyperventilating. I wasn't a religious guy at the time. I was exploring the spirituality of C. G. Jung. I had read the Bible once as a class assignment, but I didn't understand it, and I didn't believe it was anything special. I had been in the process of losing control for two years, but this time, I knew I was going over the edge...

As a last resort, because there was NOTHING else left that I could do, with no expectation of results, I cried out loud, "God help me..."

...as I did so, I remembered somewhere Jesus had said he'd do whatever we asked if we asked in his name...

"...in the name of Jesus Christ."

Immediately, my breathing returned to normal, I gradually calmed down, and SOMEBODY began teaching me how to change the things in my heart that were driving me crazy.

It was not a "religious" experience. Whoever it was, he was teaching me in terms of steam engines and the six factor formula of reactor kinetics. I remember looking up one verse in a concordance during the next 6 1/2 years. It was John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."That was the extent of my "biblical research" during that 6 1/2 years. It was as far as my capacity and inclination would take me. I did not go to any church, though I was interested in finding out more about the group called Unity.

I learned that I sometimes got results when I prayed in the name of Jesus Christ. I wondered why that should be so. I read a book called "Real Magic" by Isaaac Bonewits (whom I later became acquainted with... Google him... he was an interesting character). It was from Bonewits' book that I learned what Wierwille taught in PFAL as the law of believing. According to Bonewits, the name of Jesus Christ was a focus that worked for me personally to amplify the power of my believing.

One time, in 1978, I experienced the peace of God that passes all understanding. When I first went to twig in 1979 (partly because I thought it might be associated with Unity, which I still wanted to learn more about), the lady doing the teaching taught on Philippians 4:6&7. I was astonished! Here was something in the Bible that I knew from experience to be true, spiritual and useful! I had NEVER before heard anybody teach anything like that from the Bible! I thought to myself, "These people know something I want to find out more about!" Eventually I signed up for PFAL.

I was willing to listen during that first encounter with PFAL, even though I was still slightly skeptical. Sometime during the eleventh session, it dawned on me that we were going to be called on at some point to speak in tongues. That didn't freak me out as much as it would have if I hadn't seen the grads in my twig speaking in tongues decently and in order. I knew I wasn't going to be called on to put on a Pentecostal-style show. During break, I went to an unoccupied restroom across campus from the classroom where PFAL was running, and I spoke in tongues in the restroom stall, just to make sure I wouldn't be embarrassed by inability when the time came.

That was in July of 1980. Sometime later, I think it was in October, I was reading along in the Old Testament when I made a guess as to what a specific Hebrew word would be in a particular passage. I looked it up in a concordance, and I was RIGHT! I had taken my first step in learning to read the Bible for myself with understanding! It was that experience that sold me on the Bible, and PFAL.

Decades later, here we all are...

I never realized the role Jesus Christ has been playing in all of this until after I had shed the things Wierwille taught about the "absent Christ." I believe the Bible is accurate where it says that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Raf, you wrote, "If you are going to tie your faith in the inspiration of the Bible to a belief that this book is an accurate telling of events that took place in history, without error or contradiction, then you are going to be walking on a very fragile faith." Not only are you right, I will go you one farther and say that such a person would be walking on a delusional faith. Unfortunately, that's exactly what we see too many evangelical protestants doing.

As I told one of my profs in a class about 4 1/2 years ago, "I don't believe that Jesus loves me because the Bible tells me so, I believe the Bible because the Lord who loves me led me to it." That was for the benefit of my fellow students who came from evangelical protestant backgrounds. I know the prof would have loved to say it himself, but he couldn't because he was the prof. I however, being only a student, could say anything I dang well pleased!

The first eleven chapters of Genesis are, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating things that has ever been written, not because it is "history" as the evangelical protestants would have it, but because it is a conversational response to Babylonian history/myth. I think the Pentateuch was put together in the form we have it now by Jewish scholars who had been exiled to Babylon. I think they retold the history/myths of Babylon, but replaced the motives and actions of the Babylonian gods with the motives and actions of YHWH. The differences between YHWH and ALL of the surrounding gods are STARK! STARK! STARK! I don't think anybody can understand what Genesis 1-11 is really saying without at least a cursory knowledge of 6th century BCE culture in Mesopotamia. Is it full of what we could call contradictions and errors? Yes, indeed! Can it still be God-breathed in the sense that The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien-breathed? I think so...

In a very real sense, I am not arguing. The conclusions I've come to are based on my experiences. My experiences are the only ones I can speak from, and they don't invalidate any other person's experiences. This is more an exercise in articulation rather than an attempt to persuade. There are still more truths from your post, Raf, that I want to comment on, but not right now.

More later...

Love,

Steve

Edited by Steve Lortz
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...snip...

I think the bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you believe the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed, then you must conclude that it can contain errors and contradictions and still be God-breathed.

...snip...

Raf has summed up the thrust of what I am saying on this thread very concisely. The key part of Raf's statement that I want to examine now is "if you believe the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed"

What is the testimony of II Timothy 3:16? Is it what evangelical Protestantism (including Bullinger and Wierwille) has held it to be?

In the first place, when Paul wrote that passage in a letter to Timothy, he wasn't including any of the writings of what we would call the New Testament. And it is further uncertain what exactly would be included in the "all scripture" because there is a strong possibility that the canon of the Hebrew Bible was not yet settled at the time Paul wrote. What did Paul mean by "all scripture"? Only one thing is certain, he could NOT have meant "the Bible as it will be known in the 19th century, King James English and all." And even though Paul could probably read the Tanakh in Hebrew, Timothy probably used the Septuagint.

The King James English of the entire passage (II Timothy 3:14-17) introduces the notion of perfection, but it isn't perfection of the written word, rather it is perfection of the "man of God". It doesn't mean that the man of God is without contradiction or error. It means that the person who would serve God can be fully equipped to perform every good work she or he might be called upon to do. I believe Paul was putting the emphasis of the word "all" on "is profitable for" and not on "is God-breathed".

Bullinger wrecked the understanding of many when he taught that all scripture is profitable for three things only, and that different parts of scripture are profitable for different things. I think II Timothy 3:16 could be properly understood as "The whole Old Testament (God-breathed as it is) is profitable for doctrine, the whole thing is profitable for reproof, the whole thing is profitable for correction, the whole thing is profitable for instruction in righteousness."

You, know, nobody that I am aware of taught that II Timothy 3:16 means "the whole Bible is perfect" before the 19th century... the 1800s. Some people started doing so as a response to the liberal protestant theology that began coming out of Germany in that century. Liberal protestant theology is based on Newtonian determinism, that is to say, that anything supernatural is completely ruled out as contrary to the laws of nature. (Newtonian determinism has since been found to be an inaccurate description of reality.) Liberal protestant theology holds that every account of anything supernatural happening in the Bible has to be a false story made up by the early Christians to persuade other people to believe something that never happened.

The idea of Biblical inerrancy was formulated to refute the foundation of liberal protestant theology. Unfortunately, the foundation of inerrancy is just as flawed as the foundation of liberal protestant theology. Evangelical protestant theology, that the Bible was perfect in its original autographs, is just as wrong as liberal protestant theology, that all accounts of the supernatural in the Bible are lies. The notion of inerrancy became a tenet of evangelical protestantism at the Fundamentalist Conferences of the early 1900s, along with dispensationalism.

Evangelical protestants have taken it so far as to say that things obviously figurative, like the two different, mutually contradictory accounts of creation in the first few chapters of Genesis HAVE TO BE believed as literally factual, even though they are blatantly FIGURATIVE, and were never intended by the authors to be taken as "true".

So...

"I think the bottom line, in my opinion, is that if you believe the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed, then you must conclude that it can contain errors and contradictions and still be God-breathed."

I don't believe it is "the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed" in the evangelical protestant sense. It was Paul's testimony to Timothy that the law, the prophets and the other writings, all of it, was profitable in equipping the person who wants to serve God. The reason they are all profitable for serving God is because it was God himself who gave them. Notice, I did NOT say it was God who WROTE them. He didn't write them, he BREATHED them. Different things entirely!

All for now... Yesterday was our 24th anniversary (me and LizzyBuzz), and we are going out tonight to celebrate!

Love,

Steve

Edited by Steve Lortz
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Enjoy your celebration!

I don't believe it is "the Bible's testimony of itself that all scripture is God-breathed" in the evangelical protestant sense. It was Paul's testimony to Timothy that the law, the prophets and the other writings, all of it, was profitable in equipping the person who wants to serve God.

I actually agree with you on that point. If you isolate my comment from other comments I've made on the same subject, it would cause confusion, but I agree: "Paul" was not writing about the very letter he was writing when he said "all scripture is given by inspiration of God" (and, it is important to note, I do not believe Paul wrote the epistles to Timothy).

Unlike other holy books, the Bible is not aware of itself as ONE book. It has no statements about itself as a book. When the writers of the Bible speak of "His Word," they are not talking about the Bible. They are not talking about Psalms. They are being very literal: HIS WORD. Insofar as any scripture contains His Word, it is His Word that is exalted.

My problem, of course, is that "His Word," as communicated in those books, doesn't strike me as anything all that enlightened (see the "Are you more moral than Yahweh" thread for exploration of this position).

But in this, we are coming to the material from very different positions.

Steve, I appreciate you placing this thread in "Questioning Faith," and I see your reasons for doing so, but I'm feeling strengthened in the position that this is a more general doctrinal question: What does "God-breathed" really mean? By placing it here, you're explicitly inviting atheist input and/or views that might challenge your faith in God (as opposed to the nature of the Bible).

I don't think you're questioning faith here. I think you're challenging a doctrinal position.

I'm inclined to leave the thread right here where you put it, but it might not be seen by people who avoid this particular subforum. Your call.

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LizzyBuzz and I had a good time out last night. Over dinner we reviewed all our misunderstandings of each other during the first five years or so of our marriage. That covered the period of time from when we got married to the time we had to walk away from John Lynn and all his works as a result of the Momentus debacle.

...snip...

Because it DOES contain errors and contradictions. If you look at the stories myths and legends as LESSONS, you can glean something from them. But the moment you call those stories HISTORY, you run into trouble. Some of the stories are history. Many, many, many are not.

...snip...

Here is the opening of a a paper I wrote for Archaeology:

----

Genesis as a Response to Mesopotamian Cosmogony

How are we to understand 2 Timothy 3:16 when it tells us that all scripture is theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” especially with regard to Genesis? Does it mean that Moses, during breaks from trekking around the desert with the children of Israel, would sit in his tent with a quill in his hand transcribing what the Spirit of God dictated to him, jot by jot and tittle by tittle? Does it mean that God began with a series of ontological propositions about the Divinity’s self, and had Moses weave those propositions into a rather quirky, even if inerrant, description of a reality that we cannot square with that we find by our senses? Was Genesis composed in an intellectual vacuum? Does the truth that Genesis is “God-breathed” mean that we should be able to interpret every word of it in terms of our present cultural understanding? Are there no references or allusions in Genesis to the thought-life that was current at the time of its composition, references or allusions that require a more than casual knowledge of antiquity to comprehend?

In a classroom discussion on the Documentary Hypothesis, Gilbert Lozano compared the composition of the Pentateuch to the construction of a Mennonite quilt. When Mennonite women decide to make a quilt, they come together as a group and work together as a team. Each woman contributes material. Sometimes the material is whatever fabric is handy. Sometimes the fabric may have special significance. Each woman works on a particular part, but the resulting pattern is not disorderly. It becomes a beautifully integrated design. No individual woman takes credit for the quilt. In fact it can be very difficult to distinguish which parts were sewn by different women, except for examining minute characteristic variations in the needlework.

So Lozano suggested that the Pentateuch was composed in a similar manner, not by an individual, but by a relatively large number of people working over quite a long period of time as writers and redactors. Many of the writers weren’t coming up with “original” material, but making a more permanent record of stories that had been in circulation since time immemorial as oral traditions. Probably none of the earliest writers expected their texts to be stitched together with other writers’ material to form a verbal quilt. It seems likely that the scribes of Solomon’s scriptorium in the tenth century BCE began the process of collecting stories relating to Israel’s early history and writing the material that became 1 and 2 Samuel in order to justify Solomon’s claim to the throne. It became imperative after the exile in the sixth century BCE for the scholars of Israel to preserve their national identity and to explain the doom that had befallen them. They accomplished these things by a very thorough redaction and integration of Israel’s national library. If we are to take it that the result is God-breathed, then we need to recognize that the Spirit of God was working in each of the writers, not by possessing those persons, but by using their unique experiences and understandings to express what God wanted to be expressed. We also need to recognize that the Spirit of God was working in each of the redactors, too, to select and re-interpret the material in such a way that it expresses a beautifully integrated design. It does not appear that the Spirit accomplishes God’s designs without the willing cooperation of at least some of the people involved.

It would seem that the composition of Genesis as we know it was the outcome of a great conversation, a conversation that happened between people of different cultures over a number of centuries in a variety of countries. The question becomes, how can archaeology help inform us as to the scope and depth of this conversation. By finding expressions similar to those of Genesis in the remains of other cultures contemporary with the composition of Genesis, we can gain some insight into how the Israelite redactors’ ideas were similar to, and how they were different from, the ideas of the surrounding nations in which Israel had become embedded. We can find some of the fabric that the redactors of Genesis re-purposed to contribute to the pattern of their quilt. But what sort of material should we be looking for?

(The paper goes on for a further 8 pages comparing and contrasting the Enuma elish and Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta with the first few chapters of Genesis. I could have done the same thing with the flood stories of Atrahasis and of Gilgamesh, but that would have made my paper too long.

----

Raf, you wrote, "If you look at the stories myths and legends as LESSONS, you can glean something from them." That's an understatement. The previous sentence is also an understatement. The entire Bible consists of stories (some of them historical, some of them not), legends (stories that may not be historical, but have grown up around historical characters) and myths... extended similes and metaphors that express poetic truth rather than propositional fact. There are a few "historical" facts thrown in from time to time, but they are historical as per the requirements for history in antiquity, the requirements in force at the time of the writing, not as per the requirements for history today. The whole point of the Bible is to "lesson" us about the nature of God, the nature of humankind, and the nature of the relationship that mankind has with God through the man Christ Jesus.

You also wrote, "That Jesus walked is probably history. That he walked on water is probably not." In this, you are more astute than the liberal protestant theologians. They would say "It is impossible that Jesus could have walked on water. Therefore this is a story invented by the early Christians to persuade us that there really was an historical Jesus. We need to have a vote on whether or not Jesus ever actually existed." Your statement agrees with modern science (since 1925) in that "miracles" are not impossible, just highly improbable. It IS highly improbable that Jesus historically walked on water. Does that mean that he actually did or actually didn't? We cannot be certain. We have to decide what we're going to believe. Your statement would be scoffed at by evangelical protestant theologians who have already decided and declared what we are supposed to believe and what is lunatic heresy.

-----

I am more convinced than ever that this is the best forum for my question...

"The Bible CANNOT be God-breathed if it contains any errors or contradictions. If it contains even ONE contradiction, then it ALL falls to pieces."

Neither of these are statements of self-evident truth. They are both propositions of faith. I am questioning whether faith in either of these two statements is warranted.

You are a paragon, Raf, of the kind of person I want responding to my question, because I know you will NOT ALLOW me to engage in any verbal manipulation. You will hold my feet to the fire.

Notice, that the problem raised by this question has not existed in general Christianity, and did not exist prior to the 19th century. It is a problem raised by evangelical protestants which came about as a response to a problem raised by liberal protestants in the 19th century.

-----

Next time, "what IS the Word of God?" or "what exactly is it that Christians canonize?"

Love,

Steve

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name='Steve Lortz' date='04 November 2015 - 12:46 PM' timestamp='1446659207' post='569567']

I am more convinced than ever that this is the best forum for my question...

Love,

Steve

I'm gIad it's here. I get to sit in on a fascinating discussion and learn about things I could never have known before.( My studies were in a totally unrelated area). Pieces are falling into place where I didn't know they were missing and my understanding is increasing intellectually and spiritually.

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I'm gIad it's here. I get to sit in on a fascinating discussion and learn about things I could never have known before.( My studies were in a totally unrelated area). Pieces are falling into place where I didn't know they were missing and my understanding is increasing intellectually and spiritually.

Now you're making ME curious, krys! I would love to hear details about how your thinking is evolving!

Love,

Steve

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Regarding my use of the word "probably":

I do not believe I am more astute than liberal or conservative theologians. I just think I'm choosing my words carefully because I am, frankly, in a forum where words get parsed more than they would in your average conversation. As such, when I am conscious of it, I try to express thoughts carefully. I originally wrote: "That Jesus walked is history. That he walked on water is not." But then I remembered that historians don't talk that way. They speak in probabilities, and the further removed they are from an event, the more qualified their language becomes.

I have no doubt there will be times when I will slip and leave the "probably" out of my comments. For example, when I say "Adam and Eve, as described in the Bible, did not exist," I'm going to leave out the "probably" because including it introduces a level of uncertainty that is missing from my opinion. There was no first man and first woman living in Mesopotamia six or seven thousand years ago who are ancestors of all humanity. That is so extablished in multiple disciplines that to say "probably" would be misleading.

I would also say Moses, as described in the Bible, did not exist. Now, there may have been a Moses who was influential in the founding of the religion that eventually became Judaism. Or not. But Exodus? Probably never happened. The evidence is against it. Overwhelmingly. Israel emerged from Canaan, it didn't invade Canaan. Probably. That's what the evidence strongly suggests.

It is often said among atheists that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If I told you I drove to work today, you would probably accept my word for it, even though I am providing you with no proof. If I told you I teleported to work today, you would demand proof, and more than just my word. You would want to see the machine. You would want to test it. The amount of evidence required to support my extraordinary claim would be extraordinarily high. And you are under no obligation to believe my claim until I prove it. You don't have to disprove it. It is enought that you don't accept it. The burden of proof is mine.

That a written work is "God-breathed" is an extraordinary claim. It requires extraordinary evidence. But it has none. The Bible shows no indication that it was written by anyone with any extraordinary insight into anything. Sure, there's some wisdom in it, but is it extraordinary wisdom? Not really. You find similar bits of wisdom in all sorts of historical writings. Science? Nah. It botches science left and right.

God's existence is in the same category. That there is a transcendent being who created all life on earth, the earth, the solar system, the rings of Saturn, the diamond rains of Jupiter, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, BILLIONS of other galaxies, each with billions of stars, black holes, nebulae, dark matter... and that this transcendent being never began to exist and will never cease to exist, and he cares, very, very deeply, about who you please with your genitals, is an extraordinary claim. I no longer believe it. It's not that I've demonstrated that such a being doesn't exist. It's that no one has demonstrated that he does exist.

Claims are not evidence. The Bible is a claim. It is not evidence.

And no, I don't think it's God-breathed.

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Now you're making ME curious, krys! I would love to hear details about how your thinking is evolving!

Love,

Steve

I was appalled at how narrow my thinking was. Being raised in a strict Dutch Reformed Church by stricter parents, and then burying myself in the science labs in college didn't help. After a while...along came twi and that was narrow thinking city! But I'm shaking off some of the constrictions and seeing things in larger chunks. I like the new look smile.gif.

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Firstly - I semi listened to the Old Testament Yale Courses on YouTube last week. What I gleaned was interesting. The Jews have never thought the OT was "god breathed". Even the giving of the law was dynamic in that the first giving differed from the second. That's the reason why the hebrew scriptures are argued over and over and over. Then there's that "jot and tiddle" thing. Apparently the scribes weren't all that perfect in their copying. Largely accurate, but not like VPW claimed. And they accept that and move on.

Then one of my pastors commented about the scriptural "tension" over things that outright contradicted other things. I thought it was an interesting way of looking at things.

What I've concluded is that scriptures have taken on a meaning of their own - outside the original intent and purpose.

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VERY intriguing discussion. Thanks, Steve Lortz, for posing the question. Of course, I've questioned my faith. I've come to the conclusion (at least for now), that the Bible is primarily a creation myth that provides a way for people to meaningfully structure their lives.

That doesn't mean I am atheist or even that I reject Christianity altogether. But I do believe that the force that started all of what we now know to be the universe... or the cosmos... is much bigger than what our human minds can conceive and understand.

I appreciate intellectual discussions like this because -- unlike the cult from which we emerged -- nobody is taking the "I'm right, you're wrong" angle.

There's just too dang much about life that we don't know... and that many of the Ancients may never even have imagined.

So, thank you (again) Steve. And thank you Raf, for your thoughtful contributions... and everyone else. :)

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Interesting that Steve Lortz has described some of the OT writings as mystic. I have described this as figurative and not literal. The source of this sounds like the equivalent of using characters from a cartoon or TV show to teach spiritual truth. The cartoon or TV show could be from today or from past years such as Top Cat, Yogi Bear, Star Trek or Get Smart. Giggling is also required for these shows. :biglaugh: Of course Steve also mentioned actual historical events that did actually take place and also using these to teach spiritual truth. Sounds like a very mystic culture that they may have had in the Old Testament times. However, for the New Testament Paul takes this mystically written information and makes it more clearly understood. Hence, I learn from his writings more that from other people's writings. However, for the book of Revelation, the last book of the bible we have the most non-literal and figuratively written in the entire bible. We can learn from this writing, but it has also been used to promote false doctrines and false prophetic events.

Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 9, explains this more clearly, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part". Our overall knowledge is limited. Today we know only in part and certainly don't know everything.

Edited by Mark Sanguinetti
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