Legitimate concerns about the perception of the Bible as the word of God.
Below are just some roughly stated thoughts about several sections in the Bible.
There are many ways you can go (in interpretation) with the beginning of the Bible in your interpretation. As with any text taken as a whole the start determines what you make of the middle and end. Much of the debate regarding Genesis has come about because of the enlightenment movement which sought to acquire knowledge by pure reason alone with no reference at all to God or his revelation so that the Bible itself becomes subject to its findings. However, methodologically modern science a priori rejects God and so any attempt to reconcile its findings and the Bible should be aware that the issue is that of starting points. Google the Anthropic principle, read about Darwin and the theory of evolution and it doesn’t take long to realise that there is a deep seated rejection of the biblical God, so going the way of Biologos might not be the solution to the problem but an epistemological critique of modern science. Although I must also add that science itself is not the problem despite what this blog title might have you initially believe, I do not hate science.
Now I haven’t said anything at all about the question itself and I won’t because to do so will be to speak to quickly on things that I haven’t quite worked out yet and also that some of the places where Science and the Bible are in conflict are sometimes just theories that are most times not the final word on the matter and even in places where they are the consensus sometimes does change for more on this, find out more on Kuhn’s theory of Paradigm shift.
On a final note on this matter, I’m alright with any view that can be logically defended even if they are sometimes at odds views of other Christians, this is for the most part helpful – iron sharpens iron, so the biblical proverb goes. What I have a problem with though is any view that finally holds the whole of scripture suspect, something which is unfitting for any person(s) bearing the name of Christ. Therefore any view that rejects for example the existence of a historical Adam and Eve, also rejects the doctrine of original sin, most of the book of Romans and the notion of sin itself which in turn makes the atonement of Christ obsolete. I won’t have that !
1 Samuel 17
An allegorical view of the story of David’s slaying of Goliath is totally out of the question once one begins to realise that if we should take this route there is no anchor and interpretation can fly off in whichever direction it wishes to. Goliath is life’s problems usually, Satan maybe, even bullies. The stones, well take your pick of the many character traits – courage etc. These can no where be found in the text and must me imported in through the back door carrying with them diseases, contraband items and other bizarre ideas. if the text itself is followed closely it becomes quite clear that the focus is on God himself who is at work in the least of men to achieve mighty deeds so that it is to Him alone praise is due not the vessel of his choosing. He selects despite outward appearance (16:7) and supplies his spirit for His own purposes (16:13).
I’ve seen a youtube video of a former christian who converted to Islam because he couldn’t make sense of the sheer sinfulness of the O.T characters and Prophets in contrast to the sinless Mohammed, the only Prophet of Islam. The one character that displays this in its most extreme is David himself but still, he is also the one character that also displays a significant amount of righteousness – both deeply flawed and saintly at the very same time, who would want to listen to or follow that. Yet, Jesus identifies with him as He is called a type of David and so our friend would seem justified in rejecting Christianity on this basis.
Great David’s greater son was tempted in every way but was without sin, He is David in every sense but infinitely better, the core of the argument at the beginning of the book of Hebrews is the fact of Christ’s superiority in comparison to all. which leads us nicely into the next text below.
Your throne, O God is for ever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom, you have hated righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. (Ps 45 and Hebrews 1)
Psalm 45 is addressed to a King and in its original context will be read and interpreted as such. Applying it, directly to Jesus then recognises Jesus as the promised messianic King and if the psalms are to be read properly, the words spoken to any other King in the past history of Israel can and only be perfectly true of Jesus, Him and no other. However long the reign, however righteous to a certain degree (if righteousness had a measure), however deep the hatred of wickedness, however great the anointing; Jesus Christ’s surpasses that of any earthly King’s.
Richard D. Phillips in his commentary on Hebrews had this to say on the use of the Psalms by the writer:
However a Jewish scribe might explain away this statement, no king of Judah could live up to this acclamation. Only Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of God, can fulfill this boast of an eternal reign that is perfect in righteousness. The writer of Hebrews is teaching us how to read the Old testament (and particularly the Psalms), namely, to read it through a Christ-colored lens-Promising and anticipating, portraying and celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ. The handling of the Psalms by the author of Hebrews shows us what Jesus himself taught the forlorn disciples on the Emmaus road: “That everything written about me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled””
Psalms 46, 48 and 76
Mount Zion as a theme in the Bible is something I haven’t thought about much, primarily because of my shoddy O.T familiarity. Is Mount Zion actually a low hill and the river mentioned in the psalms no where to be found? I have more work to do I guess.
Song of Songs
When I have in secondary school in Nigeria, I guess I was about 13 at the time, a Muslim classmate in an attempt to discredit the Bible pointed out to me that the Bible mentions ‘breasts’ quoting from Songs of Songs 4:5 – Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies.
It is clear that the the book depicts romantic love which in the Christian conception of life is not at all negative or immoral, sex in it of itself is not evil. Although I haven’t quite personally looked in to the book in any in-depth fashion, at this moment in time I think its contents speaks to a world that has a childish view of marriage, romantic relationships and finally an unhealthy obsession with sex outside of the proper context it should be expressed.
I’m aware that an allegorical reading of the book is an option which many take, in fact out of all the books of the bible, this one is the most viable for such treatment because the earthly marriage covenant itself is an allegory of the relationship between Christ and his bride.
The eschatological vision of the temple I suppose refers either to Church or the age to come as depicted in the book of revelation where the focus of the new temple is Christ himself who now dwells among his people.
Throughout the history of Israel there has always been a going down to Egypt. You see this in the lives of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Israel in the great going down to Egypt and exodus account. Israel or some of its citizens during the exilic period also go down to Egypt.
In John 15, Jesus identifies himself as the true vine which alludes to the Bible’s designation of national Israel as a vine in Isaiah 5. By saying this Jesus about himself, Jesus shows how he closely aligns with Humanity and God’s people not only in his incarnation but by his claims to being the greater Israel and so He choose 12 Disciples to reconstitute the new Humanity and a new covenant. This can be taken to its extreme end in the dispensationalist sense where the Church has now wholly and completely replaced national Israel. This is somewhat true, but a discussion of this will require a longer post about what we are now to make of the Jewish state and whether Jesus is returning to a rebuilt Jewish Temple when he himself predicted it demise and said he has come to replace it (Mark 14:58).
To deny that miracles occur today is anti-Christian and to hold to a Deist position where the clock of creation has been wound and let go with the maker now distancing himself from his creation and simply letting history run its course. I also do not deny that God works by natural means, the everyday aspects of life can be just as miraculous as the sun standing still or an axe floating, I do not necessarily need to see the unusual to prove the existence of God.
I attend a reformed-Charismatic Church and one of the things my pastor said in a sermon on Acts that has stuck with me concerning the occurrence of miracles is that they must if they occur, be gospel affirming and not just for the sake of dazzling. In the case of the one that do occur in the book of acts it is clear that this is the case, the miracle itself affirms the message preached by the apostles. The frequency however is what most Christians dispute today, should we be expectant of miracles of the same frequency or magnitude as that of the scriptures. I think my answer will be somewhat on the no side but with several caveats some of which I have already mentioned in the earlier paragraph.
God’s words to us as found in the canon of scripture were always affirmed with miracles, think burning bush, plagues, talking Donkeys. He however still speaks today since his words to us are eternal, we have the Bible that speaks of his ultimate word in Jesus who came to earth through the miracle of a virgin birth. To place what has been written to us and for us in a lesser regard to signs for proof of God is to be asking for signs for the sake of entertainment and Jesus had something to say about that – Matthew 16:4. To put it simply, I’n neither a cessationist, neither a Charis-maniac.
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 and John 13:12-15 (Last Supper)