This post follows my previous post titled Is the Bible error-free?” and video on the same topic. I encourage you to read and watch those first to get some context.
Let me be clear
I am not interested in giving up on the Bible and God or telling other people to do the same. I actually do believe there is truth revealed and wisdom to be followed in its pages (yes, even truth from God) in this holy and central book of the Christian and Jewish faiths.
4 Big questions
Today, I’m responding to the following four questions that most Christians typically ask once they are presented with the possibility that the Bible is not error-free:
1) If the Bible is not error-free, then how do I trust that any of the Bible is true?
2) How can I trust that what Jesus said is true?
3) How do I know my relationship with God is real?
4) How do I remain a Christian post-Biblical inerrancy?
#1. If the Bible is not error-free, how do I trust any of the Bible to be true?
The reality is it will be hard at first. As I mentioned in the last post, if you were taught to believe that the Bible had to be error-free for Christianity to be true or for your relationship with God to be real, then this is likely a go-to question if you no longer hold to that view.
Let me offer a few suggestions that enabled me to trust the Bible for those who no longer hold to the Biblical inerrancy view. If you do still hold to Biblical inerrancy, the following thoughts are still worth considering:
- Remember that the Bible (as any book) doesn’t have to be completely true and accurate (from beginning to end) for anything to be true and accurate. So give up that faulty assumption and the other 9 assumptions rooted in Biblical inerrancy that we already discussed in the previous post. Trusting some of the Bible doesn’t require trusting all of the Bible as the truth.
- Remember the things that the Bible does describe and teach that resonate with you and how you see the world: After acknowledging the deep seated problems with the Biblical inerrancy view, I remember taking time to think back about some of the things the Bible has done in shaping my understanding of God and God’s love. I remembered how I met God in the pages of the Bible. That there were still things in this book that resonated with me as being true and life giving, especially the teaching of Jesus, the sacrificial death of Jesus on a Roman cross, and other New Testament teaching. Treating others the way I want to be treated and loving my neighbor as I love myself still resonated as truth even though the Bible included commands in the OT that directly contradict this teaching.
- Reading the Bible will show you whether or not there is truth in its pages: You don’t have to be convinced about every single page of the Bible before just one page of the Bible makes an impact on your life and direction. Don’t give up on reading the Bible just because you find some contradictions or inconsistent teaching. Embrace the things that are true and notice the things you take issue with.
Trust in the Bible will come in the process of engaging with the Bible, not with disengaging with it. Remember, our engagement with the Bible showed us its problems in the form of contradictions and inconsistent teaching, but it will also reveal to us the truth about God and life and hope and love that does resonate with us and our experience.
#2. How can I trust what Jesus said is true?
- Remember Jesus and the good news about him: After transitioning out of the Biblical inerrancy view, I spent a considerable amount of time rereading the 4 Gospel accounts in the New Testament to refamiliarize myself with Jesus’ life, teaching, death, resurrection, and the mission he gave to his followers. I also spent a considerable amount of time in Paul’s letters. As I spent time thinking about Jesus, a powerful but simple trust in God was being renewed. While it’s true there is some inconsistent teaching in the Bible, it has always been the transforming power and love of Jesus that has enabled me to be who I am.
- Remember who you are now and who you were before faith in Christ: I opted with believing that I could not have become the person I am without the relationship I have with God and that this relationship has been profoundly influenced by the lens of Jesus’ life and teaching. And since it is the Bible that provides us with this lens, it was all the more reason to continue investing into what the Bible tells me about Jesus Christ.
#3. How do I know my relationship with God is real?
Remember how your life has been impacted by your relationship with God. Could God really be only a figment of your imagination? Didn’t you meet God inside the pages of Scripture? Didn’t you also meet God outside the pages of Scripture, in the real world of work and life and struggle? I suspect you did. Recall to mind what has transpired in your life that you would normally call God. While you might be able to find an explanation that disregards God, does it seem in the slightest good and hopeful? The things I could tell you about my life and how I got to where I am today could not be explained without mention of God. And I’m not talking about a prosperity gospel. Life is hard. Life has been a struggle for me and for most people. Without God, the struggle doesn’t make sense at all. With God, it may not make perfect sense, but I find that going through life with God makes much more sense.
#4. How do I remain a Christian post-Biblical inerrancy?
Hopefully, the above suggestions have already made sense of this question or at least provided some food for thought. The simple answer is “Find out for yourself.” Listen, if God is not real or if Jesus was just some unimportant guy who got himself killed by ticking off the Romans, I don’t want to play around pretending and living in a fantasy either. So find out for yourself. As the invitation in the book of Psalm states, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Share this post on social media! (use links below)
If you liked this blog, you may also enjoy the following books that helped Peter through his faith transitions. Click on the books links to find out more.
This is just so wrong! If a book that you read for pleasure has errors in it, that is one thing. But when you base your life on something, you need to believe that it is accurate. Not just a part of it. All of it. Every single word every single jot and tittle.
And who exactly gets to choose what is accurate and what is faulty? Some random person? Or is that a matter of opinion? Because the truth is that no one person and no group of people get to choose what is true and what is false. Right and wrong, good and evil, truth and error, has already been determined—by God. The Christian faith does not need to be rethought, it needs to be believed. The Bible is not a buffet to pick and choose what you want to believe, it is a package deal.
The problem with your mentality, is that when you study the Bible, everything is connected. If, for instance, you were to say that Genesis is false, then you not only discredit a book of the Bible, you also discredit the people who have referenced that book and the person who wrote the book. Basically, for the Genesis example, you have discredited Moses, meaning that none of the first five books of the Bible can be trusted. In the New Testament, Paul references Genesis, meaning that now Paul can’t be trusted, discrediting most of the New Testament. Also, Jesus himself quoted from Genesis. So now, by having one book that is “faulty” a large portion of the Bible is untrustworthy.
In Peter’s epistles, he mentions that we had a more sure word of prophecy than audibly hearing God’s voice from Heaven—the Bible. In essence, we are always to take God’s Word over our opinion and our personal experience. In your essay, you stated that we can know that what God has said is true and real based on what He has done in our lives. And yes a personal testimony is an awesome tool, but that is not how we know the Bible is true. The Bible is based on facts and truths, not emotions. By saying that we know the Bible is true, only because of our own personal experience, you make the Bible subjective instead of objective. If the Bible is subjective, how are we to share the truth with the world? We can say what we believe to be true, but how do we know we are right? How do we know that they aren’t right in what they believe or don’t believe? The answer is…we don’t. Because when what we believe is based on us, instead of on God, then we have no firm foundation. We have no absolute authority. We have no surety of salvation. And we have no assurance of eternity. In short, we have no hope.
All throughout the Bible is it glaring obvious that every word of Scripture is true. Whether it be God saying that every joy and tittle is true. Or Revelation saying not to take away from Scripture. Or Paul stating that ALL Scripture comes from God. Every word is true!!! From beginning to end, from start to finish. Every joy and tittle is true. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and there is no space for rethinking on that point!
Rachel, you brought up a lot of good points. I mean it. They are all worth considering. I grew up believing many if not most of what you asserted. One of the biggest things that led me to rethink those assertions over the last ten to fifteen years has been the life and teaching of Jesus. If I was to follow Jesus and call him Lord, and mean it, then I needed to take serious the things he actually said and taught, especially if I hold to the deity of Christ. If anything, Jesus himself provided the space and reason to rethink what I call truth. And I think his words are still beckoning Christians today to do the same.
Peter, THANK YOU so much for your two helpful blogs! I have struggled to maintain my faith despite an increasing understanding of the many scientific, archaeological, and historical errors or incompatibilities in the Bible, the presence of clearly legendary stories, the abundant internal contradictions, and the morally problematic passages. Sadly, there is a major lack of honest and informed sources that address the question of how to maintain faith following the recognition of biblical errancy. Four “answers” commonly given are (1) denial of any problems whatsoever, (2) demonization, dismissal or ridicule of those who pose such questions, (3) fanciful “harmonization” of clearly disparate passages or teachings, and (4) wholesale rejection of science and its findings. Nothing has impaired Christian witness or intellectually honest faith more than such false approaches. So thanks for what you’re doing.
Thanks Steve! Yes, it is incredible and disappointing the enormous amount of intellectual dishonesty that exists in many church circles and institutions. I have experienced the most disingenuous responses by well meaning Christians. In fact, most believers I know are held captive to those four tendencies you listed. I’m still captivated by Jesus and his way but I’m attempting to follow that way a bit more thoughtfully than I used to. You may enjoy my newest series on the atonement, where I dive into church history to consider what the death of Jesus of Nazareth on a Roman cross could mean for historically engaged Christians. Scroll to the bottom of that post for the rest of the 8 titles in the series. https://faithrethink.com/faith_rethink_series_returns/. You might enjoy anything in the “American History” category also. There’s a number of pro-science and historically engaged posts. Take care!