Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fundamentalism and the Bible--Conclusion

How do I answer the question:  Is the Bible the infallible Word of God?  Depends.  You see one must define terms.  It is easier for me to say that the Bible is the rule of faith and practice for Christians.  It tells the stories (however arrived at or modified) of God's friends and their attempts to faithfully live out the life they believed God called them to live.  One thing in favor of the truth of the Bible is the way that it tells on God's friends with a type of "brutal honesty," and they come out looking none too good so very often.  It fits right in with the stories of these fallible people to see the Bible as written by fallible writers.

I sometimes am reminded about another type of document written by those striving to be God's friends:  a confession of faith.  I am a minister in the Reformed tradition which has produced numerous confessions since the 16th century.  None of these confessions ever made a claim at being the last word.  Also, to understand newer confessions, you have to read earlier ones (Reformed Christians have written plenty).  Even if some of our earlier confessions seem silly or embarrassing, we still hang onto them.  There is something about some of those silly articles in the old confessions that help define who we are.

Why do we change them so much?  Do we believe that God changes God's mind on a regular basis?  No, I don't think that is the idea.  We have been hesitant to say that we have the one, eternal, right answer.  Times change, people change, and our understandings change.  To be Reformed refers to, well, always being reformed as our experience grows.

It is like that with the Biblical documents.  The Bible is hardly "flat," and all things are hardly equal.  Knowledge of spiritual truth is progressive.  The highest pinnacle for Christians are the words, doing, and dying of Jesus.  That is mountaintop for Christians.

If that be so, then we want, not less, but, more scholarship.  We desire research into the times in which Jesus lived.  We want research that brings us closer to the historical Jesus so that we can better understand the Christ of faith.  If we truly seek Jesus, we will not be afraid of new evidence.  It doesn't mean that we will jump on every nutty bandwagon that comes along, after all, we aren't seeking doubt.  We are attempting to seek truth with a questioning mind.  We desire neither scholarship beginning from the basis that all the gospels contain are stories with no basis in fact, or a scholarship proclaiming that some beliefs are so sacred they are above question.  Truth is not afraid of knowledge.  It can also afford to be generous.  Therefore, it does not fear differing perspectives.

What then can we say concerning our absolutist friends?  They make two main mistakes.  They turn the mythic into "factual" truth.  Second, they see the Bible as "flat," with no difference in message, purpose, or morality.  In these two mistakes, they suffer (and cause) much grief.

This series includes the following parts:
  1. Fundamentalism and the Bible
  2. Fundamentalism and the Bible--part 1
  3. Fundamentalism and the Bible--part 2
  4. Fundamentalism and the Bible--part 3
  5. Fundamentalism and the Bible--part 4
  6. Fundamentalism and the Bible--part 5
  7. Fundamentalism and Bible-- Conclusion
All parts may be found in the Fundamentalism e-zine on Zimbio or on my blogsite, The Repentant Fundamentalist.  

No comments:

Post a Comment