My comments transcended all thoughts of denominations. Expressed very
simply, we have those Christians who believe, period; and those who
believe in part (the 'bespoke gospel' folk that I had occasion to refer
to some time ago). Believing as I do the Scriptures to be the immutable
Word of God, I freely acknowledge the presence of difficulties in some
areas; but the alternative, in my view, is attended by far more serious
problems. You see, from what I read, I don't believe God to be as
tolerant in this matter as many would have us believe. Again, the
concept of a 'conditional faith' - no doubt based on what is currently
fashionable in science - seems completely out of place in this context.
We're going around the mulberry bush once again. The only way, IMHO, for
the Scriptures to be totally beyond argument would be if the good Lord had
presented them to us, like the Book of Mormon, on golden tablets and, even
then, there would be some who would doubt their authenticity. There are
lots of examples in the Bible that we interpret non-literally. For example
(and I'm doing a quick search on my computer), look at Exodus 20:4 (KJV):
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any
thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is
in the water under the earth." Not many of us would think that this applies
to animals in groundwater "under the earth." Fortunately for us, the NIV
uses a different translation, "You shall not make for yourself an idol in
the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the
waters below." I seem to recall that "waters below the earth" reflected the
belief that the earth floated on a body of water and that the KJV may be
closer to the actual text. See also Phil 2:10 (NIV), "that at the name of
Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth." I
don't think that many would argue that "every knee" refers to those of
gophers and other burrowing animals.
Like you probably, I grew up with a very close to literal interpretation of
the Bible, in some cases a literal interpretation was the "default option."
For example, how many of us, at one time, considered the parables that Jesus
taught as historical facts?
Where I do take issue with you is your comment "I don't believe God to be as
tolerant in this matter as many would have us believe." I don't think we
can know how tolerant God is. I've used the phrase "I believe, help my
unbelief" (Mark 9:24) in the past to indicate that most of us are on the
road to sanctification and that we're not there yet. My main concern is that
we set the bar too high for those along the path of sanctification. It's
not up to me to be judge and jury as to whether we can have eternal life if
do or do not accept Jonah as a historical fact. I do agree with you that
"'conditional faith' - no doubt based on what is currently fashionable in
science ..." is questionable. Faith is, after all, a knowledge of things not
seen" and, if we have to rely on proof, faith is no longer necessary.
> 2. Because the "word of the Lord" is not always as clear as we would
> like when it gets down to details.
Perhaps you could suggest some examples.
With the " word of the Lord" I meant the Scriptures and with "details" I
meant specific Bible passages. To give you one example, I challenge you to
come up with a timeline surrounding the birth of Christ including the
various locations mentioned in the gospels and the events associated with
his birth. To me, there are too many loose ends and too many (apparently)
conflicting passages. Did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus return to Nazareth after
Joseph and Mary "... had done everything required by the Law of the Lord"
(Luke 2:39), or did they stay in Bethlehem (Mat. 2:1) and then went to Egypt
(Mat. 2:13)? If there is a discrepancy that I cannot resolve, does that
mean I can't believe in the incarnation or resurrection? Is it "all or
nothing?" I don't think so.
> 3. The "logical principle" is based on extra-Scriptural evidence,
> pure and simple and on "internal inconsistencies" as George Murphy
> pointed out to me recently. Miracles are easier acceptable as long as
> there is no evidence to the contrary. Often there is none (the
> floating iron axe head cannot be examined, nor can the water from
> which is was retrieved and we can't model the water flow in that part
> of the Jordan to determine if there could be conditions that would
> allow the axe head to surface , the wine is long gone, the talking
> donkey has expired, and Lazarus return to the land of the living
> was temporary). Those miracles are relatively easy to accept. But
> some will, undoubtedly, say that Lazarus was not really dead and the
> story is allegorical and is recorded to show us that ... (and it is
> left up to each of us to fill in the blanks). There is a consensus
> amongst all of us, however, that the Incarnation, Death of the Cross,
> and Resurrection did take place. To me, these events and my
> eligibility to share in the rewards of Jesus' suffering and death,
> constitute the Good News. The rest of Scripture is absolutely
> fascinating and, at times, I can't wait to see how it all (Special and
> General Revelation) fits.
I personally regard this questioning of the Scriptures as a completely
profitless - even dangerous - exercise. What does it really achieve for
one's personal spiritual well-being? For God's creatures to pretend they
can make such judgments is really a travesty. I recently had occasion to
draw attention to Isaiah 29:13 et seq. Clearly, God has never taken
kindly to such high-handed behaviour. But, anyway, why should you
believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and, following his death on the
Cross, was resurrected? These are far greater miracles than the ones you
wish to discard, are they not? Then why set out along the slippery slope
of unbelief? Our very clever former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins,
followed that path and - while still drawing his substantial salary and
presiding at major religious events in his magnificent finery - ended up
denying the virgin birth and the raison d'etre of the Cross.
I didn't mean to question the Scriptures, but only to give some examples.
To me, I have no problem accepting a talking donkey or a floating axe head
but my scientific curiosity makes me curious ("nosy"?) in that I wish I
could have been there to observe this. Don't you wish you could have been
present to taste the wine that Jesus made, not to prove that it was wine,
but to share in the miracle?
Why do I believe "...believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and, following
his death on the
Cross, was resurrected ..?" In the final analysis, because God chose to have
me born in a Christian family and provided me with the information I needed
to make a conscious decision but who also "set my heart" so that I would
make that decision. Am I out of the woods yet? In a way, no, there will
undoubtedly be challenges to my faith. Will these challenges remove my
faith? Not if it is genuine.
Let me leave with one final point, the virgin birth. We confess that Jesus
was born "from a virgin" in our Confession of Faith and this concept plays a
major role in our theology: Jesus was both God and Man (incarnation) and, as
our theology tells us, this was necessary for Jesus to take on our guilt, as
God required the death penalty for sin. Now, suppose, HYPOTHETICALLY, that
more accurate translations of the Scriptures would show that the passages
that refer to the virgin birth had been translated incorrectly and that
there is no Scriptural evidence for the virgin birth, would that invalidate
the saving work of Christ on the cross and his resurrection? Is our faith
based on our reading of the Scriptures or on the theology we have developed
from our interpretation of the Scriptures? Note that I, not for a moment,
question the virgin birth!
Vandergraaf, Chuck wrote:
> Isn't Christendom in a confused enough state already? Why can we not
> accept the words of the Lord at their face value? It appears that many
> are able to accept some miracles, but not others! This appears to be a
> purely arbitrary matter. But perhaps I am missing something. Is there in
> this a logical principle that distinguishes one biblical event from
> another? Perhaps those who believe there is will respond.
> I'll try to give you my perspective to your questions.
> 1. YES. In addition to our sinful nature and pride, is probably due to
> subject matter and the way it has been presented to us. Sinful nature and
> pride lead to assuming that a particular interpretation is the only
> one, or important enough that we see fit to separate from other
> denominations and set up new ones. The subject matter is difficult to
> comprehend (e.g., the concept of the Trinity, free will). The way the
> News is presented to us in the Bible does not allow for "follow up
> questions" for specific details (well, it does, but the answers are not
> always crystal clear).
> 2. Because the "word of the Lord" is not always as clear as we would like
> when it gets down to details.
> 3. The "logical principle" is based on extra-Scriptural evidence, pure
> simple and on "internal inconsistencies" as George Murphy pointed out to
> recently. Miracles are easier acceptable as long as there is no evidence
> the contrary. Often there is none (the floating iron axe head cannot be
> examined, nor can the water from which is was retrieved and we can't model
> the water flow in that part of the Jordan to determine if there could be
> conditions that would allow the axe head to surface , the wine is long
> the talking donkey has expired, and Lazarus return to the land of the
> was temporary). Those miracles are relatively easy to accept. But some
> will, undoubtedly, say that Lazarus was not really dead and the story is
> allegorical and is recorded to show us that ... (and it is left up to each
> of us to fill in the blanks). There is a consensus amongst all of us,
> however, that the Incarnation, Death of the Cross, and Resurrection did
> place. To me, these events and my eligibility to share in the rewards of
> Jesus' suffering and death, constitute the Good News. The rest of
> is absolutely fascinating and, at times, I can't wait to see how it all
> (Special and General Revelation) fits.
> Chuck Vandergraaf
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