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June 05, 2006



Okay, so the Bible may be errant, it could be missing important books and may have books it shouldn’t, when Jesus quotes scripture, his quote doesn’t match the original text. My question is: Now what? What do we do with the Bible? If parts may be wrong, how do we determine which parts? What use does it have in our Christian lives? Or should we just stick it under the coffee table to prop up the broken leg?


I dont think that it was simple to establish a fixed canon, however it was necessary because there was alot of heresy going on at that time. We have to take by faith, just like everything else, that those early Christians were guided by the Holy Spirit to put together the best books that would be as complete as possible. Also I believe that there were guidelines that they had that they used to test each book against, this I believe was at the council of nicea.


I think you're probably right in saying that it was necessary for them to make determinations about which writings should be considered "from God" and which should not.

I also think it's fair to assume that the Holy Spirit was involved in guiding those early Christians.

My problem is when the conclusion is made that only the group of writings we call the Bible can be regarded as inspired by God.


I agree with you, there is this book that I just read " The Way of a Worshiper" by Buddy Owens. And I have to say that I believe this man was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he wrote it because it impacted me so much. Also don't we pray on sunday morning that the Pastor be filled with Holy Spirit that his words be not his own but that they come from God? So then if we believe that scripture is inspired and we pray that others be inspired then its possible that we all can be inspired becase we all have been given the spirit of God when we acept Him as personal savior. Its the same Holy Spirit given to the writers of scripture as we have been given today. Thats why when we read what we know to be inspired by God we ourselves get inspired through the "living" word of God.


r, I agree with what you have written, but it leads me to a question or several. If we pray on Sunday morning that the pastor would be filled with the Holy Spirit does that mean that what the pastor says during his sermon is inerrant or just inspired? And what is the difference? If the Holy Spirit is the same, and the manner in which the Holy Spirit is given is the same, are people writing things today that should be viewed as equal to scripture?


See, this is a nice thread. We all agree over here!



Good thoughts. I think what bothers people is that they don't want to rely on their own judgement to discern what is from God and what is not. This is what God's people have always had to do, though.

Along these lines, there is nothing wrong with a group of believers making a determination about which writings were to be accepted as scripture.

James Barr points out that if we are going to separate out the Bible as something special, that's fine BUT:

"...one must be clear and honest that this is a decision of the later church and its tradition, and not a decision that the biblical writers already knew or had made." Beyond Fundamentalism, p.50)



Your questions are good because it raises the issue of how the Holy Spirit inspires people. I think God can inspire us to say a whole bunch of good things, but in the midst of it there will be error.

That's where discernment comes into play.


It isn't that we all agree but that we are all open to other opinions(When do we start singing Kumbaya?) and willing to explore the varying ideas.

Debbie and I had a conversation about this general topic and she pointed out the fact that we have faith (key to Christianity) that the Bible we have is inspired by God and is the Bible as God wants it. We can't prove/disprove this...but belief isn't really about proof. Jesus said this best (I don't have a Bible handy for the quote) when doubting Thomas saw and believed after Jesus' resurrection.

This lack of proof is a HUGE stumbling block for the 'intelligent' unbelievers. We had a kid in our last youth group that had an easier time believing in evolution (because scientist said it was true) than he did believing in God.


Bill, I agree, but again - more questions. Whose discernment? How do we discern the experiences of others? Without more division?


I personally would like to start to sing kumbaya lol.
I believe that scripture is our standard by which we test those writings or teachings to see if they are indeed from the Holy Spirit. We are reminded even warned that there will be false teachings, false prophets but thats why we today can use the bible we have and to most importantly utilize the power of the Holy Spirit to dicern what is from God or not.


Okay, now we have come full circle - which scripture, how is it inspired and is it inerrant? This is fun, can we do this again tommorrow? And doesn't anybody work?


I favor the view of theological reflection called the "Wesleyan Quadrilateral." This basically states that we reflect on theology based on four things:

1. scripture
2. tradition
3. reason
4. experience

I think you have to hold all of these things in tension. Click here for a link to the explanation given by the United Methodist Church.


If you guys really want to sing, click here and I'll get us started.


YES! LOL! That was great! Now really sing it r! I really enjoy these discussions, regardless of whether I agree with you or not. Ken and I were talking about this earlier - we really miss you guys.


I love it!!!!
I to really enjoy the discussions, be careful Deb the husbands may know the truth about what we do all day,:) now listen guys we mothers work hard all day long and in the few moments we get, thats when we go to the computer, sometimes we do it just for sanity and sometimes to cummunicate above preschool level.



I'm glad we are still able to stay in touch with you guys. Hopefully Val and I will be able to visit sometime and we can have some good old-fashioned banter in person once again!

David Hester

Interesting information on your blog! I have similiar information on the Book of Enoch on my blog www.davidhester.blogspot.com.

You can find my information in my Gospel of Mark Commentary.

Hope to see you there!


Dredging up old stuff. In the quote you posted by James Barr, he states:

"Nowhere do the New Testament writers give any list of the books that they consider to be authoritative or inspired."

I'm wondering how he explains 2 Peter 3:15-16: "Paul also wrote you with the widsom God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters...which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures"

Wouldn't that be a New Testament author listing Paul's letters as scripture and inspired?


All that tells us is that Peter considered Paul to speaking by the wisdom of God.

The word in 2 Peter 3:16 is the same as in 2 Timothy 3:15...graphe. It means "writing."

Peter may be putting Paul's letters on the same "level" as the OT, but that still doesn't mean either of them were referring to the Bible as we know it today.


I was under the understanding that graphe could mean writing, the scriptures themselves or certain sections of scripture.

But you didn't address my question. Barr says: "Nowhere do the New Testament writers give any list of the books that they consider to be authoritative or inspired."

Peter is clearly pointing out that he considers the writings of Paul on par with "other scripture", which in context would refer to the Old Testament as it existed at his time, and that he considered Paul's writings to be both authoritative or inspired.

Barr's quote says that no NT author gives a list, but clearly Peter considers Paul's writings as such, even if we don't have all of his letters anymore, or Peter didn't specifically list ALL of the letters. We do have some of them.


I think his point is that we have no specific list of what they had in mind when they talked about scripture. I'm not even completely sure that Peter is calling Paul's writings "scripture" the way we think of the word. We have to rely on tradition, rather than the Bible itself, for evidence that we have the "right" books in our canon.


Bill - - as always you have challenged me to examine my own beliefs, as promised I've begun a series of posts to do this.



I think people may be misunderstanding the point of this whole discussion. The original point of this series was to challenge assumptions we make about "scripture." It doesn't mean I'm questioning whether the Bible we have today should be considered authoritative for Christians. The point is that we sometimes misinterpret or misunderstand the Bible and make weak arguments based on those misunderstandings.


But you did ask us to consider the quote by James Barr, which I think is wrong. There is a possibility that we might not have a book that was considered scripture then, but we do get an indication from NT writers what they did consider scripture by looking at what they quote and references like that in 2 Peter.

While we may not have complete a list, we certainly have enough information to create one.

It seems to me that you are focusing on what we can't know, and I'm looking at what we can.


Debbie wrote: "...we do get an indication from NT writers what they did consider scripture by looking at what they quote and references like that in 2 Peter."

What do the New Testament writers quote? Do they quote each other? Do they quote the gospels? The basic answer is that they quote the Old Testament.

All you're telling me is that Peter may have considered some of Paul's letters on par with the OT.

What about 1,2,3 John, Jude, Revelation? What about the Gospels or Acts?

What about Paul's other letters? Do you think the ones in the Bible are the only ones he ever wrote?

What about Peter's letters, themselves?

All I'm saying is that the Bible, itself, does not provide us with our canon. That was determined later on in history. It doesn't make it wrong. It just is what it is.


I'll address this more completely in the coming posts, but the part of the equation that I think you are missing is the agency of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised in John 14:26 "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."

I don't want to read you wrong but I get the impression from your writing that the canon was established by the early church "winners" without the direct input and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.


"...I get the impression from your writing that the canon was established by the early church 'winners' without the direct input and guidance of God the Holy Spirit."

I didn't say that at all. I'm merely trying to point out what the Bible does or does not say about itself. I have no problem with people saying the Holy Spirit helped in the formation of the canon (or the writing of it).


I stand corrected and I appreciate it. That said, the Barr quote in the post above seems to have more heat than light.

Has your struggle caused you practical problems with scriptural application in your life?


I wouldn't say so. Not any more than anyone else. I think the only people who find scriptural application easy are probably fundamentalists of some sort.

Basically, I consider the canon to have a special place of authority. That doesn't mean God doesn't speak to us through the Patristics or Augustine or the great mystics or whoever else, though.

I think we need to carefully consider our interpretation of anything (including the Bible), using the Holy Spirit, tradition, reason, and experience as our guide. If we ignore any of these, we are that much more liable to be in error, in my opinion.

Going back to application, I guess part of it depends on your view of culture. Is the cultural context of the writings a factor? Most people don't prohibit women from speaking in church or braiding their hair and yet a lot of those same people will not permit women to preach.

I don't want to approach the Bible with skepticism. I generally approach it assuming I can trust my interpretation. There will always be things we need to examine, however, in light of experience, reason, etc. My thinking is that people who put too much emphasis on the "inerrancy" or "perfection" of the Bible are more prone to ignoring new light that is shed on the text. We can confuse our own subjective view of the truth with what God is trying to communicate.

I think people see that word "experience" and they think "liberal." From what I understand, the classical liberal approach is to make either experience or reason the "trump card" of their hermeneutic. But that's not my goal. My goal is to hold all of these things in tension.


When I first read your blog - - only a month ago - - I probably did misinterpret what I read. The more I read, the more your heart came out.

I admire your desire to put Biblical writings in context. I believe that is part of a responsible hermeneutic. Paul talked about stupid arguments over words. I'll try to explain my view of Scripture without a charged word.

I believe that God reveals truth to man, absolute truth. I agree that our understanding is subjective by nature but we can draw conclusions because 1) we are made in His image and 2) we have brethren in faith to help 3) the Holy Spirit was sent to clarify and witness to Jesus.

The Bible tells the story of creation, fall, and redemption which has formed my world view. The only other world views that make sense to me are Nihilism and Buddhism. The former is consistent but awful, the latter is delightful but lacks substantive content.

I think the Bible is a narrative and does contain propositional truths. It should not be reduced to a rule book but Jesus said if we loved him we would keep his commands. Paul said that he did not permit a woman to teach over a man. In our church that is interpreted so that women teach women as well as youth and children. How has your church dealt with it?

I appreciate your openness. I'll try to offer the same.


We don't have a church home right at the moment because we just moved. I have been involved with some churches that share your view of women and some who haven't.

Does your church allow women to braid their hair? (see 1 Timothy 2:9) Are they permitted to speak? (see 1 Timothy 2:12)

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