The Sacred Chain | The Challenge of the Bible - BioLogos

How can we continue to affirm the Bible as inspired and authoritative if the human authors believed incorrect things about the world?

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There are many ways that people can be inspired by what they witness in the world, taking and using knowledge they already have. We do not need to believe in infallible divine dictation into out minds. It’s wrong to think of disputed historical facts as being correct or incorrect if the original sense and meaning was to tell a story about relationships. I find no problem in thinking about much of the Old Testament as parable rather than history.

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Great points by @JRM! I also liked how he described his work as an interpreter and wished he was asked to respond to the leading question:

How can we continue to affirm the Bible as inspired and authoritative if the human authors believed incorrect things about the world?

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Interesting podcast. The example of how the Bible differs on internally on the subject of salvation was thought provoking, which was the point, I suppose, as we are called to learn wisdom from the text, not to find all the answers.

JRM’s reference of Walton’s Wisdom for Faithful Reading was good, as that has helped me a great deal in understanding scripture. So often we read into scripture what we want rather than what it says.

One concept I am still mulling over is JIm’s idea that the scripture was not particularly inspired when written, but became inspired though God’s use of the writings to communicate his word. That certainly explains why Paul’s request to bring him his coat is preserved in our Bible, but is somewhat uncomfortable as it is not the traditional way inspiration has been presented to most of us. I ordered his book just to read more about that idea, though look forward to the rest of book as well.

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This is illustrative:

“We would like to see Christian colleges encouraging their scholars to engage the scientific evidence that humans evolved, and acknowledge that this can be done without letting go of biblical authority.”

Deborah Haarsma

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I saw the example on the subject of salvation a good reminder of the need to see the whole picture. If we focus on just one or two passages, we may end up with skewed theology. All the passages in the example fit nicely together but only if we form the grand picture using all of these + other passages on the same subject.

The splits to different denominations and churches often follow from a too narrow focus on particular passages in the scriptures and therefore, unbalanced interpretations. Sometimes it happens so that critical voices within a church are driven out. In those cases, the birth of a new church is forced by others - the founders would have liked to stay in their old church. Some splits are caused by disagreements between persons or struggle about leadership, so all splits are not caused by disagreements about interpretations but I guess the majority of splits between denominations are.

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“God inspires us, someone, to communicate truth. But it’s more like you get a sense of what God wants. And then you have to articulate that in your own words, for the particular context.”

These words by Middleton sounded familiar, resonating with the life experience of how Holy Spirit often inspires messages, like sermons or more personal messages. Yet, there is a caveat. The experience is from ‘ordinary church life’, about messages that are intended for a limited group of people, in a particular situation.
When we are speaking about the biblical scriptures that give an influential message through ages, it is possible (likely) that God would give more guidance in the writing. Not just a sense of what God wants, also some sentences or even more. Even in ‘ordinary’ church life, God may give someone sentences that the believer needs to say to someone else. If that happens today, why not in a task that is much more important?

Although I have somewhat ‘higher’ theology about the scriptures than what Middleton seems to describe, I assume we agree in one influential point. The messages were written for receivers in a particular context. To understand what the message means to us, we need to put the message into the historical and cultural context. As none of God’s teachings in the OT revealed science that was more advanced than the knowledge in that culture, it is logical that we need to see the culture-specific details as something that the writer used to help the receivers understand the core message. I think there is something similar in the descriptions that picture God almost like a human - body parts, feelings, etc. They are not accurate descriptions of reality, they are used to help the receivers to understand the message better.

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Pretty remarkable how basic this is, and also a very contentious ‘prior’ regarding systematic theology, or how a person is going to ‘deepen’ their faith.

I dare say, without a systematic view of Scripture, the doctrine of the Trinity is toast.

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Yes. And we should also look at how certain words were used during that time. Pistis (faith) and charis (grace) taken together referred to a patron-client relationship. Faith in this context meant loyalty. Grace meant the favours the patron gave to his clients. For example, patrons expected their clients to vote for them if they ran for office. And the patron would give them food during times of economic distress.

This way it is even more clear that James does not contradict Paul.

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That is also why I stopped caring about source criticism in the Pentateuch. These sources were not inspired. But the redaction we got is. What matters is the way the Biblical author(s) used the sources.

Perhaps the Abel and Cain story was originally a tale about the origin of the conflict between shepherds and farmers, and why the Kenite tribe was so violent (their mark).

But in Genesis it gets a new meaning: people still try to connect with God. But, again, sin crouches at the door and succeeds. Cain then builds a city and his descendant Lamech murders a man and marries two wives. Things are not going as God intended. How is this going to be solved?

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I listened to Craig Blomberg and Mariam Kovalishyn’s course on James and seem to remember there being an easy way to read the passage on works… let me see if I can find it…

@ivar nevermind, I might have mixed it up with something I heard in a Hebrews commentary. Blomberg still makes some helpful points @ 2:07:18, 2:12:20 and 2:20:00

https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/12248369

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A short and helpful article that touches on the rhetorical elements in James 2:14-26

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I would ask how we could possibly affirm the Bible as inspired and authoritative if writing it involved God overruling the writers’ own worldviews and knowledge.

Yeah, I much prefer Michael Heiser’s view that God prepared certain people all through their lives such that when they decided to write what we now have in the scriptures it would come through faithfully.

If you really want to throw the cat amongst the pigeons, try this book:

The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse: Redeeming the Gospel from Gruesome Popular Preaching of an Abusive and Violent God (Dr. Bar’s New Top Trending): Bar, Eitan: 9798379286347: Amazon.com: Books

For a scholarly treatment related to this:

Perhaps so, perhaps not. There’s no requirement that inspired work must endure to further generations. Another thing to keep in mind is that the ancient view of inspiration wasn’t binary the way we regard it (a significant part of why different churches had/have different books in their canons yet remain in fellowship).

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This is so true! The Genesis writer was very good at that, in fact the first Creation account began as the Egyptian creation story, but he changed it to declare that the Egyptian gods weren’t really gods, they were all just things created by YHWH-Elohim to serve His purposes. I sometimes think of it as a sort of “In case you missed the point” story written for the Israelites after the Exodus: the ten plagues made it clear that the Egyptian gods weren’t on the same level as Yahweh at all; using the Egyptians’ own creation story to declare that (in a very memorable way) was like polishing a trophy. It’s easy to imagine Israelites, who would have been familiar with the Egyptian creation story, hearing this new version and going, “Wait . . . hey, what?” as god after god was ‘demoted’ – especially the two great deities the sun and the moon, who get slapped with the greatest indignity by not even being named.

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Awesome article; this is superb:

It is important to note that the formula is not “faith + works = salvation.” James does not say that works need to be added to faith in order for one to be saved. Instead, his explicit language is that faith either “has” or “does not have” works (v. 17). Faith is inherently either dead or alive. If it is alive, it contains works organically in itself and thus overflows with them in the visible world. The alternative is a dead faith that does not contain such works. James’s contrast is between living and dead faith, not between a living faith that has works and a living faith that does not have works.

The article struck me as a clear and thorough way of saying something Martin Luther stated about the issue, that though it is faith alone that saves, the faith that saves is never alone, that it doesn’t have to ask whether or not to do good works because it is already out and busy doing them.

Which may be why later in his life he praised the Epistle of James.

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Not only that, but in the telling of the Exodus, the pharoah himself remains unnamed, perhaps for the same reason as he put himself out to be a god, but was referred to only by his functional status.

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