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October 10, 2006

Comments

Christian Cable

Dear Bill,

I have enjoyed your recent thoughtful comments on my blog and I relish the opportunity to join your forum.

I not only acknowledge that you are a seeker, but assume that you are a Christian. May I ask your thoughts then on 1 Corinthians 15:3-4? "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, That He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

I read your posts on dealing with scipture and I would respectfully submit that you appeal to Paul's writings in Chapter 13 but may feel he is too absolute in Chapter 15.

I should never speak for you. Am I off base?

Appreciating your candor,

Christian

Bill

What do you mean by "too absolute?" I want to make sure I understand what you're asking.

Christian Cable

I realize that penal substitutionary atonement is a challenging doctrine. In fact, I'm reading C.J. Mahaney's "Living the Cross Centered Life" now. Some would say that living a Christ centered life is more important than focusing on the cross. Some would say that penal substitutionary atonement is cosmic child abuse.

What did Paul say? If you trust his use of language in 1 Corinthians 13, can I trust his language in 1 Corinthians 15?

What do I mean by too absolute? I mean true, but uncomfortable. True, but it makes me feel squeamish. I suppose the questions for me is not, "how does it make me feel?", but, "do I believe it?"

I know that you believe 1 Cor 13. Do you believe 1 Cor 15? If you don't believe it then how it makes you feel is not that relevant unless feelings are the prime determinant of belief.

Bill

I've been appealing to Paul's writings in chapter 13, but that doesn't mean I treat what he says as a list of absolutes. I can say, with Paul, that love is patient. Patience, however, is not a universally definable attribute. The definition may vary depending on culture or situation. Furthermore, I have to allow that there may be a situation where love is not patient.

I look to the Bible for principles, not for absolutistic, exhaustive rules for life.

I agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, but I'm also learning about other facets of God's story and plan for us. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I don't think the whole "cosmic child abuse thing" is not about how people feel. It's not even about denying 1 Corinthians 15. It's about questioning the specific soteriological system that many evangelicals have held to.

I don't think feelings are the prime determinant of belief although we shouldn't deny the reality of their importance. You've made me realize that it might be helpful (for me and for others) to write on the subject of absolutes. I'm thinking of "absolute" in terms of something always being true regardless of situation or culture. I think that truth is subjective because we apprehend reality from a specific perspective (our own).

For example, you might read 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and think "This is describing penal substitution, while someone else may see "died for our sins" as something slightly different.

Christian Cable

Dear Bill,

I appreciate your thoughtful replies. Our differences at this point may be insoluble, but I do not want to sacrifice honest relationship over differences. In about ten messages back and forth, you and I have now drilled down to the point of our tension.

I literally believe the current English translations of the Bible present absolute truth that is God-breathed. The central story of the Bible is Christ.

The central story of creation, fall, separation, sacrifice, Christ, the cross & resurrection, & a holy life lived in gratitude transcends culture. We all have absolutes. Mine are in the scriptures.

Perhaps absolute truth terrifies us in the same manner as absolute power. If absolute power corrupts absolutely then absolute truth may lead to absolute arrogance. God forgive me if this is the case.

The absolute truth of the Bible weakens, humbles, instructs, and yes at times -- perplexes me. I hope to continue our dialogue. I too will examine my beliefs and reliance on scripture as you define yours on "absolute".

Sincerely & In Him,

Christian

Ish Engle

A comment that has been helpful to me on this issue is this, "There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth."

I have not heard Bill saying that he doesn't believe the Bible to have absolute truth, only that your, my, and his understanding of that absolute truth will slightly vary. Thus, we MUST be in fellowship with each other to "Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thes 5:11)".

There is danger in assuming that there is no truth, but there is also danger in assuming that we have THE absolute truth. Just my $0.02.

deborah

That was worth more than $0.02.

Bill

I think the Bible contains true statements, but that these statements do not give us an absolute understanding of anything. Does that help?

Christian Cable

No Bill, it really doesn't. I absolutely know how to treat you in grace and how to stifle my own pride because of the understanding of scripture. It is so against my nature to be humble that it would not have even occurred to me without the Word.

I agree with Deborah that Ish Engle's commments are worth more than adverstised. Do you see my discomfort with the assertion that the Bible contains true statements versus the Bible is the very truth of God revealed to men? There is quite a difference. The writings of Benjamin Franklin or Muhatmah Gandhi contain true statements. Neither of these men claimed Christ as Lord.

In Him,

Christian

Bill

I'm sorry, Christian. I don't see the difference you're talking about. You seem to think that some truth is more true than other truth. I think that "all truth is God's truth," as they say.

You wrote: "I absolutely know how to treat you in grace and how to stifle my own pride because of the understanding of scripture."

No offense, but I don't know how you can say that. Are we working with a different definition of "absolute?" I think that what you're claiming could only rightfully be claimed by God, himself. It seems to me that no person has an absolute ability to do anything.

Christian Cable

I agree that my ability to understand is not absolute, but God's ability to instruct is. Although I may never get it right and I hope that you will pray for my sanctification, I do believe the scripture offers absolutes.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart might and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. These are absolutes. You may say to me then, Christian just what does that mean for a talented musician and young father who cares deeply about God? That is a darn valid question.

Do you believe the scriptures to be inaccurate? Written by man alone? I hold the Bible to be my final authority because I do not walk in the day of the apostles or of Christ.

I'm certainly not offended, and I know that you do not view yourself as a relativist (defined as anything goes - - more of a libertine), but Bill - - is anything absolute? You must see the difference between Gandhi's writing (wow, that is true) and God's (wow, this book understands me and can command me.)

Christian

Bill

Can God instruct a subjective being in an absolute way? I suppose he could literally control my every thought and action, but I don't think that's how he works.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart might and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself."

I believe this is truly God's desire for us. But the phrase "absolute truth" implies that this will be true in the same way for all people and for all times. It also implies that there are no exceptions. According to scripture, God called the Israelites to wipe other groups of people out. That's not exactly loving your neighbor as yourself, is it?

You can read a basic list of my beliefs about the Bible here.

deborah

Bill, it seems that in this thread you are arguing for the same point that you argued against here.

On another note, you may not think that God would control your every thought, but would you conceed that he could and would choose to control some of them, if it served his purpose?

Bill

Can you be more specific about how I'm contradicting myself? I'm not sure what you're referring to.

I don't know that God controls our thoughts directly, but I certainly would concede that he directly influences them. I think that God actively compels us toward faith, for example, but I don't think he makes us believe.

d

It just seems to me that over there you were saying that somethings can be universally defined as not good, and here you are saying that nothing is absolute. Perhaps the difference is that you didn't say absolutely good.

When God hardens Pharaoh's heart in Exodus 10:20 & 27, and this is reinforced in Romans 9:17-18, is he influencing or directing Pharaoh?

r

In light of this verse, this conversation is pointless. Why? Paul is not talking about absolute truth, he is talking about simple truth, that is that we don't rejoice in sin (unrighteousness) but we exalt truthfulness.
I personaly believe in absolute truth, are there "truths" that are subjective it depends on what truth we are talking about Gods or mans?
I believe these scriptures will shed light on this conversation
Ps 119:142,152,160
John 8:32
John 14:6
And lastly a warning for if we leave the truth, Rom 1:18-25

Bill

I think we can perceive basic boundaries for things. I was thinking about the example of death the other day. Declaring someone dead is kind of a subjective thing. Is someone dead when their heart stops? What about CPR? Is someone dead when there is no brain activity? Apparently that can happen under deep anesthesia. We may have a legal definition for death, but philosophically speaking, it is difficult to make a clear distinction between life and death.

Nevertheless, there are instances when someone is clearly dead. An example would be a body that has been decomposing for several months! That person is clearly dead, in my opinion.

Let me put this another way: I think there are always exceptions to the rule (or at least the possibility of one). But that doesn't mean there are no rules. We may not be able to make precise judgments about what is good or bad. We may say that there is a "fine line" between the two in various situations. But I think there are some things that are clearly "bad." Is it possible, when making that judgment, that we're not grasping the whole picture? Yes. We are finite, subjective beings, and we have to allow for that possibility. For pragmatic reasons, however, we can't go around doubting everything. We can't wonder if each chair we sit in is really going to hold us, for example.

Ish Engle

And so, two millenia later, we are STILL asking Pilate's question!

Christian Cable

And I'll give the same answer - - pardon the lack of reference - - "Your Word is truth."

Bill

There's that logos word again! The phrase is from John 17:17. Think about this now...Jesus is talking about what God says being true. You can't say he's referring to "The Bible" as we know it.

I liken this to the way the Bible talks about God's (or Jesus') name. As you know, that doesn't mean we simply believe that's his name! It means we believe that he says who he says he is. Believing in Jesus' name means we place our trust in him.

Saying, "Your word is truth" to God means we trust what God says.

Bill

Click here for a definition of logos. As you will see, it refers primarily to acts of speech.

P.S. No offense to you, but it is a pet peeve of mine when people captialize the word "word" when referring to the Bible. It is my opinion that this practice should be reserved for when we are specifically referring to Jesus as per John 1. The Bible is not God, it is a book about God!

christiancable

No offense taken - - but if you insist on busting Greek - - consider also rhema. At least I capitalize! Some folks blog like ee cummings.

Bill

What do you want me to consider about rhema?

Christian Cable

The logos (word) becomes enlightened (rhema) when God quickens it to our hearts through the Holy Spirit. It explains to me how scripture (notice small "s" in deference - - it is big in my heart) can strike me one way when I'm in a certain place in life and another way in another place.

It explains in part the vast difference of God's word to all others. I do quote other authors and often. My favorite non-biblical quote is from Socrates. "The unexamined life is not worth living." I suppose that it is one reason I consider time spent in dialogue to be time well spent. I hope to examine my life through your questions - - selfish?

Bill

Are you sure you have the right word? Rhema means "that which is or has been uttered by the living voice." (reference here)

I think God can speak to us through anything. In a manner of speaking, God's words to us could be found anywhere.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Bible is a special book. I think it deserves to be viewed as authoritative on various levels. I just don't think it's a magic book.

Chase

2 Timothy 4:2- Preach the word. "Logon" in the Greek, root "Logos". The context of this passage, which would be 2 Timothy 3:15 and following demand that this would mean Scripture. The context following lunps the sound teaching of doctrine (God's word communicated) with listening to the truth. This is not a proof text. To say "logon" root "logos" here means other than Scripture, which is to be preached and taught, would be like someone interpreting McDonalds to be a Fine Steakhouse, or Billarnold.typepad.com to be the same as Billarnold.com. (I think you will see the humor, I know you will see the mullet). The Greek and English in the above several verses clearly connect "logos" to "gaphe" and "Theopneustos".

Bill

I am not questioning the idea that logos could refer to previously existing scripture. Interestingly enough, though, the NRSV translates logos as "the message" in this instance. Why? Well, I can't tell you for sure, but I suspect it's because Paul is telling Timothy to continue preaching the message that he and others had been preaching. Remember that the gospel was primarily communicated in oral form at this point. There may have been written "gospels" by that time, but it doesn't mean everyone had them. We have to be careful not to be anachronistic when we look at these Greek terms.

Didache, as you may know, refers to a mode of speaking.

Again, I'm not saying logos was absolutely not used to refer to scripture, but I don't think your argument is as convincing as you think it is. Also, you can't simply make a 1 to 1 correlation between what Paul may have viewed as "scripture" and what we call the Bible. The latter simply didn't exist as a closed canon until much later.

Chase

I guess questions I have based on your conclusions would be this. If the Scripture Paul is telling Tiothy to preach is only the Old Testament, then why would he also teach to proclaim Jesus as Risen? and Which parts of the Old Testament did Paul see as Inspired? It seems mroe plausible to me that Paul could be speaking of Scripture, as God is speaking through him, in a way of teaching and somewhat prophetically. All Scripture is God breathed would at least refer to the Old Testament and Paul's writingt Peter refers to as Scripture. When we begin to pick which Scripture is God-breathed and which is not we start walking a slippery slope.

Bill

I wasn't trying to say that Paul was referring to the Old Testament. I think its most probable that Paul was exhorting Timothy to keep on preaching the message about Jesus. My point was that he's not necessarily referring to the written words we refer to as "the Bible." Timothy may have had access to one or more of the gospels in written form, but that's not necessarily what Paul was referring to when he told him to kerusson ton logon (proclaim the message).

Ish Engle

Chase wrote, "If the Scripture Paul is telling Tiothy to preach is only the Old Testament, then why would he also teach to proclaim Jesus as Risen?" Because, as he writes in Romans, we were saved by Christ, invited into the new covenant through Jesus, and that through His death AND resurrection. You als wrote, "and Which parts of the Old Testament did Paul see as Inspired?" I believe Paul wrote that ALL of it was.
Look at the Exodus story, look at the Psalms, the prophets, even the Law, and you see a foreshadowing of Jesus. When we look at Paul's writings, it is clear that he taught Jesus using the Hebrew sciptures. He found Jesus in them, and used them to support his preaching. Thus, ALL the Hebrew scriptures are, in Paul's view, inspired, and, since they point to Jesus, they are useful for instruction, etc.

Chase

I agree, but I do not believe this is all Paul is speaking of, Ish. I suppose I worded this question in a poor manner.

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