I have felt some rather strong agreement with many of the comments in this discussion, especially the one emphasized in the March 9 comment that we are to worship the Word, not the book about this true Word. As I have evolved my beliefs over the last 50 years, I have felt that I had been taught some things that were misinterpretations of what was written in the Bible, either distorted by human perspective, or incomplete, due to the interpreter not applying a consistent understanding of who God is, and what that means. I would say, explicitly relevant to BioLogos and this thread, there are two key characteristics of God, important in helping us to interpret what God meant when He asked His Prophets and Apostles to write something, which are better understood in the context of modern mathematical and cosmological knowledge. These two characteristics are the belief that God is Creator of the entire physical universe, and the belief that God is infinite.
What does it really mean when I say that God created the universe? Yes, that is the 300 trillion stars, and all the other matter and energy in the space between. However, I believe that creation of the universe also includes all the laws of physics by which the universe functions, and even the space and time dimensions of the universe as we experience those dimensions. God as Creator certainly means that God exists outside of the created universe – the Creator exists outside of the full extent in space and time of the creation. I note that this fact does help explain something that Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” His existence outside of the created universe places Him “simultaneously” before Abraham, and yet right there talking to the Jews. That is, God is there (present tense) before, during, and after the created universe is proceeding down its path through time.
How does this relate to interpreting the Bible? One key comment that has occurred to me is the question of how to interpret God’s statement in Genesis, as He observed His creation, that “it is very good”. I believe that God is commenting from God’s perspective, not from the perspective of a created human. What I mean by this is that I am sure that God is saying that the entire universe, through all space and time, had functioned exactly as She wanted it to function, that the universe had fulfilled the purposes for which He had created it. I do believe it is an anthropomorphic misinterpretation of what God said to claim that the earth was created as a perfect thing by God, at the time of its creation, but the perfect world that God wanted was ruined by Adam’s sin (with a little help from Satan and Eve).
I definitely accept that my interpretation requires a reconsideration of what God’s purposes are for creating us in this universe rather than just creating us in Heaven. In my current understanding, it is not God’s intent to have us live here in a perfect Garden of Eden, with no troubles or evil things happening. And, based on several biblical passages, and on my belief that Jesus’ death shows how much God loves each of us, I do not believe that God put us here to give us a “pass/fail” test to determine who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell.
What might be God’s purposes? Perhaps to experience things here that we cannot experience in Heaven. I believe that this suggestion is consistent with what Jesus said to the Jews who asked Him about the man blind from birth whether the man’s blindness was caused by the man’s sins, or his parents’ sins. Jesus said that the man was blind so that the glory of God could be shown through him. That leads me to realize that we could not help anyone, we could not offer comfort to anyone, and we could not be helped or comforted if there were no problems, no disabilities, and no illness or injury. I believe that one of God’s purposes for placing people in this world is so that we can experience the good of helping others, and either by our own actions or observation of the actions of others, we can experience the bad impact on relationships when someone chooses not to help a person in need.
The other characteristic I wish to discuss addresses directly the issue of how incomplete our knowledge of God is: What does it mean that God is infinite? Suppose every (finite) human brain that ever existed were filled completely with knowledge about our infinite God, with not a single bit of information in any brain a duplicate of information in any other brain. What percentage of the total infinite God would be described by all that knowledge? The mathematical truth is this: The sum total of all that knowledge is mathematically indistinguishable from 0% of the total infinite knowledge (no matter how small a finite number I state, all of our extremely large finite number is a smaller fraction of the infinite total than that number).
What does this mean? It is absolutely true that no one human, nor any group of humans, or even all humans together, have the whole truth about God, or the only truth about God. There is so much real truth that God can very well reveal one part of Herself to one group of humans, and a different (perhaps partially overlapping, perhaps with no overlap) part of Himself to a different group. I do firmly believe that what God has revealed to me as a Christian, both through the Bible and through other means, is not the whole story about God. I also strongly believe that my Christian beliefs and knowledge are sufficient knowledge for God’s purposes for me.
To summarize this rather lengthy discussion: Yes, I believe the Bible is an accurate partial description of God. However, this description, while being extremely important as a sufficient knowledge base on which we can build a proper relationship with God, is subject to misinterpretation due to our limited human understanding, and is absolutely a partial description of God, mathematically indistinguishable from 0%