5 Errors You’ve Been Taught About the Bible
What if you’ve got it all wrong about the Bible? What if you’ve projected false beliefs upon the Bible and missed the point of the whole thing?
Many skeptics have a false view of what belief in the Bible must entail, and they therefore reject a Bible they have never really understood. Likewise, many Christians have a false view of what they should believe, and thus they defend silly (at best) or dangerous (at worst) ideas about their faith.
These are the five errors you’ve been taught:
Error 1: You set a higher standard for the Bible than the Bible sets for itself. Most people believe the Bible should be inerrant. Christians try to defend that it is, while skeptics assert that it isn’t. If God is inerrant, and the Bible is His covenant with us, I agree that it makes sense to view the Bible as inerrant also. But it is equally important to remember that the Bible was not written according to 21st century rules of historiography.
Error 2: You expect the Bible to answer questions it was not answering. We should expect the Bible to give us information relating to the covenant and our response to the covenant. We should not expect the Bible to be giving us scientific information. If one can demonstrate that the purpose of a passage is to give scientific information, then a belief in inerrancy compels us to assume the passage is scientifically accurate. BUT given the covenantal purpose of the scriptures, I am doubtful that any passage does intend to convey scientific information.
Error 3: You believe the Bible teaches that God is revealed exclusively through the Bible. Nothing in scripture limits God’s self-revelation exclusively to the Bible. Even if we have been able to identify the way God has been dealing with us as His covenant people, we are given no authority to conclude how He has (or has not) been interacting with other peoples on the globe.
Error 4: You believe the Bible pronounces that all other religions are evil. Terrance L. Tiessen proposes that “formalized religions are ambiguous responses to divine revelation, and so are the religious commitments of individual members of those religions.” (Who Can Be Saved: Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions, 2004, p.358) Some responses to God are more appropriate than others. For instance, monotheism is more appropriate than polytheism. A religion is not evil simply because it has no knowledge of Jesus as Messiah. The Bible contains numerous stories of faithful worshipers who had never heard of Jesus, both inside the covenant and outside of the covenant.
Error 5: You believe the Bible presents a timeless philosophy. Christians’ covenant with God is historically contingent, not something that is logically necessary. That is to say, the covenant we have with God might have been entirely different than the one we have now, based entirely on the way different individuals in our now-distant past chose to respond to God. This might be self-evident were it not for popular gospel presentations like “The Four Spiritual Laws” which present the gospel as a set of timeless truths. The gospel is not like Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, which apply equally to all humans at all times, having always existed and were waiting only to be discovered by Buddha. Instead, the gospel is a call to accept that God has given Jesus, the real-flesh-and-blood-historical Jesus, authority to become the Lord of Heaven and Earth. There is no need to cross Lessing’s “ugly ditch” between the accidental truths of history and the necessary truths of history, for the gospel is firmly rooted on the side of history.