Bible Engagement Blog: JumpIntoTheWord

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Top Ten Urban Myths About The Bible

Here’s a great post from my friend and colleague, Whitney T. Kuniholm:

You know what an “urban myth” is, right?  It’s “a story of obscure origin that has little or no supporting evidence, and yet spreads spontaneously.” In other words, it’s a popular belief that’s not true.  That seems like a perfect description of what many people think about the Bible.  How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, today we know the Bible isn’t true because…”?
So what I’d like to do is respectfully challenge some popular misimpressions about the Bible.  But first, let me be upfront about my bias: I believe the Bible is true.  So what I’ll do is give you the evidence that led me to my conclusion.  Then it will be up to you to make up your own mind.  Fair enough?  OK, so let’s take a look at the Top 10 Urban Myths about the Bible.

  1. The Bible was created by church officials to maintain their own power. “The content is far too counterproductive…to promote [the church] policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement. If this popular view is correct, we would expect to see many places in the gospels where Jesus takes sides in debates that were going on in the early church …However, we do not find this.” Timothy Keller in The Reason for God.
  2. Modern translations of the Bible obscure the original meaning. “The only kind of sanctity which Scripture can lose (or, at least, New Testament scripture) by being modernized is an accidental kind which it never had for its writers or earliest readers… We ought therefore welcome all new translations (when they are made by sound scholars).” C.S. Lewis in God in the Dock.
  3. The Bible as we know it omits other Gospels that tell a different story about Jesus. “The vastly exaggerated claims made on behalf of these gospels are more revealing about what contemporary scholars and writers would like to find about the first Christian ages, and how these ideas are communicated, accurately or otherwise, to a mass public. The alternative gospels are thus very important sources …for what they tell us about the interest groups who seek to use them today; about the mass media, and how religion is packaged as popular culture…” Philip Jenkins in Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way.
  4. The Bible was written centuries after the events it describes supposedly happened. “The great majority of the New Testament books were penned between A.D. 50 and 100.” David F. Payne in New International Bible Commentary.
  5. The Bible’s view of God is inconsistent: in the Old Testament he’s mean and angry, in the New Testament he’s loving and forgiving. “The wrath of God is His eternal detestation of all unrighteousness. It is the displeasure and indignation of Divine equity against evil… Not that God’s anger is a malignant and malicious retaliation, inflicting injury for the sake of it, or in return for injury received. No; while God will vindicate His dominion as Governor of the universe, He will not be vindictive.” A.W. Pink in The Attributes of God.
  6. The Bible advocates things we know are wrong, like slavery. “While the Bible does not reject slavery outright, the conclusion that it actually favors slavery is patently wrong. Scripture does reveal that slavery is not ideal, both in Old Testament laws forbidding the enslavement of fellow Israelites, the law of jubilee, and in New Testament applications of Christ. In fact, the Bible teaches that the feeling of superiority in general is sin! The abolition of slavery is thus not only permissible by biblical standards, but demanded by biblical principles.” Ravi Zacharias, “Does the Bible Condone Slavery” in Slice of Infinity (http://www.rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/does-the-bible-condone-slavery/).
  7. The Bible is against proven science. “Science and religion … are friends, not foes, in the common quest for knowledge. Some people may find this surprising, for there’s a feeling throughout our society that religious belief is outmoded, or downright impossible, in a scientific age. I don’t agree. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if people in this so-called ‘scientific age’ knew a bit more about science than many of them actually do, they’d find it easier to share my view.” Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne in Quarks, Chaos and Christianity.
  8. The Bible has been discredited by modern archaeology. “Now, however, it is no longer possible to reject the substantial historicity of the Bible, at least as far back as the time of Abraham, because of the remarkable discoveries of archaeology.” Henry Morris as quoted by Roy Mills in Truth—Not Exactly: A Book for Truth Seekers and Those They Care About.
  9. The Bible is full of errors and can’t be trusted. “We can be sure that copyists worked with great care and accuracy on the Old Testament, even back to 225 B.C. At that time there were two or three types of text available for copying. These types differed amongst themselves so little, however, that we can infer that still earlier copyists had also faithfully and carefully transmitted the Old Testament text. Indeed, it would be rash skepticism that would now deny that we have our Old Testament in a form very close to that used by Ezra when he taught the Law to those who had returned from the Babylonian captivity.” From an essay by R. Laird Harris, “How Reliable Is the Old Testament Text?”, in the book, Can I Trust My Bible?
  10. The Bible may be great literature but it’s not “inspired by God. “The word ‘inspired’ … refers not to the writers, but to the words that have been written… A further indication that the Bible is the Word of God is in the remarkable number of fulfilled prophecies it contains.” Paul E. Little in Know Why You Believe.

What do you think?  Before you answer, there’s one more important piece of evidence you need. For the sake of intellectual integrity you should read the Bible yourself.  Then you can make your own decision.   So here’s my challenge: find a Bible and read the Gospel of John.  No preaching from me or anyone else.  Just “pick it up and read it,” as a child once challenge St. Augustine.  It changed his life and I pray it will change yours.

Visit The Essential Bible Blog to read other thought provoking posts by Whitney T. Kuniholm.


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Biblical Illiteracy

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it'” Amos 8:11-12 (NIV).

Evangelical Christians hold the Bible in high esteem, but according to researchers, don’t really read and reflect on it. Ironically, Evangelicals are distressed by the many problems and issues in the world (e.g. the growth of secularism and pluralism, ISIS/ISIL, the sanctity of human life, immigration/refugees, family values) but show little concern for their low levels of biblical literacy. What’s up? Why is it that most Christians in the 21st Century don’t possess a sound and coherent understanding of the Bible?

When I ask other Christians why we know less and less about the Bible, I’m often told that it’s a product of postmodernity. While it’s true that most Western nations have managed to sterilize or mute all biblical references or content from the public square, the problem seems to be much deeper. Some of the reasons for the rise in biblical illiteracy may include:

  • Christians have bought into the ‘feel-good’ approach to life. Being happy, and having good feelings about God, have eclipsed the need for biblical learning and doctrine. Rather than building our faith on the hard work of daily wrestling with the Scriptures to develop solid thinking and sound theology, we’ve settled for a spirituality built on private emotional and experiential attachments.
  • Christians have opted for a dumbed-down faith. Very few of us read church history or apologetics. Most Christians don’t consult commentaries or conduct word-searches to better understand a text or biblical word. We say we don’t have time, but truthfully, we’re lazy. We’ve opted for lower standards, preferring to be entertained than to exercise the spiritual disciplines of study, memorization and meditation.
  • Christians have adopted the ways of the world. We’ve diluted truth by integrating secular worldviews and other religious teachings into our thinking. We’ve also practiced an unbiblical form of tolerance by avoiding contentious social and political issues that are antithetical to Scripture. In so doing we’ve emasculated faith and created a perverted spirituality.

“When the hearthfire turns to blue, what to do? what to do?” Hopefully it won’t be to “run outside, run and hide” Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind. No, what we need to do is:

  • Aspire to a challenging Christianity that equips and encourages us to “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 (MEV). In other words, in all our reading and learning we must major on studying God’s Word. While we may read many books, we must master God’s Book!
  • Call ourselves out on the unbiblical views that we hold, reject them, and allow the truths of Scripture to renew our minds. ” Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:2 (NIV).
  • Deal with sin. Most of us spend more time watching TV, trolling social network sites, or playing video games than we do reading and reflecting on God’s Word. Our misplaced priorities are sin. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” James 4:17 (NIV).
  • Own it! We must deal with the problem of biblical illiteracy with gravity and seriousness. There can be no compromise. Pastors and Christian leaders must advocate for, and model, personal disciplines of Bible engagement. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night” Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV). Meditating on God’s Word “day and night” – that’s something we should profess and possess!

Here’s a final thought provoking closing comment from Albert Mohler: “We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs”.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

Recommended articles for further reading:

The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy and What We Can Do About It, Kenneth Berding – http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/

The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches, Ed Stetzer – http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/july/epidemic-of-bible-illiteracy-in-our-churches.html

The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem, Albert Mohler – http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/01/20/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem-4/


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Understanding the Bible

John Stott, the British theologian, is considered one of the most influential Evangelical leaders and teachers of the 20th Century. Here are a selection of engaging statements from his classic bestseller, Understanding the Bible:

The Bible is the prism by which the light of Jesus Christ is broken into its many and beautiful colours. The Bible is the portrait of Jesus Christ.

The supreme purpose of the Bible is to instruct its readers for ‘salvation’ … this purpose is moral rather than practical (salvation includes the whole sweep of God’s purpose to redeem and restore mankind, and indeed all of creation).

Since Scripture concerns salvation and salvation is through Christ, Scripture is full of Christ. But their object in pointing us to Christ is not simply that we would know about him and understand him, nor even that we should admire him; but that we should put our trust in him.

Scripture bears witness to Christ not in order to satisfy our curiosity, but in order to draw from us a response of faith.

Whenever we read the Bible, we must look for Christ. And we must go on looking until we see and so believe.

Only as we continue to appropriate by faith the riches of Christ which are disclosed to us in Scripture shall we grow into spiritual maturity, and become men and women of God who are thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God’s revelation … must never be divorced from its historical context; it can only be understood within it.

The Bible is essentially a revelation of God. It is, in fact, a divine self-disclosure. In the Bible we hear God speaking about God … For what God says about himself is, above all else, that he has conceived and fulfilled a plan to save fallen man through Christ.

Behind every word that anybody utters stands the person who speaks it. It is the speaker himself (his character, knowledge and position) who determines how people regard his words. So God’s word carries God’s authority. It is because of who he is that we should believe what he has said.

Every word of the Bible is true only in its context. Isolated from its context, it may be quite untrue.

To accept the authority of the Bible is a Christian thing to do. It is neither a religious eccentricity, nor a case of discreditable obscurantism, but the good sense of Christian faith and humility … it is what Christ Himself requires of us.

We bow to the authority of Scripture because we bow to the authority of Christ.

It is essential that we wrestle honestly with biblical problems. It is not Christian to bury our heads in the sand, pretending that no problems exist. Nor is it Christian to manipulate Scripture in order to achieve a forced, artificial harmonisation. No, we work at the problems with intellectual integrity.

God gives us no possible excuse for slovenliness in biblical interpretation. On the contrary, if the Bible is indeed God’s word written, we should spare no pains and grudge no effort to discover what he has said (and says) in Scripture.

No Christian individual, group or church, has ever been or will ever be an infallible interpreter of God’s word.

The best interpreter of every book is its author, since he alone knows what he intended to say. So God’s book can be interpreted by God’s Spirit alone.

In our reading of Scripture divine illumination is no substitute for human endeavour. Nor is humility in seeking light from God inconsistent with the more disciplined industry in study.

Scripture itself lays great stress on the conscientious Christian’s use of the mind, not of course in order to stand in judgement on God’s word, but rather in order to submit to it, to grapple with it, to understand it and to relate it to the contemporary scene.

Those who would increase in the knowledge of God must both abase themselves before the Spirit of truth and commit themselves to a lifetime of study.

For it is God’s loving purpose to enlighten, save, reform and nourish his people by his word as each hears it or reads it for himself … and … we must not deny that the Church has a place in God’s plan to give his people a right understanding of his word.

You can make the Bible mean anything you like if you are unscrupulous enough. But if you are scrupulously honest in your approach to the Bible and in your use of sound principles of interpretation, far from you being able to manipulate Scripture, you will find Scripture controlling and directing you.

God chose human language as the vehicle of his self-revelation. In speaking through men he used the language of men. As a result, although Scripture is unlike all other books in being the word of God, it is also like all other books in being the words of men.

Since the Bible is unique because divine, we must study it like no other book, praying to the Holy Spirit for illumination. Since it is ordinary because human, we must study it like every other book, paying attention to the common rules of vocabulary, grammar and syntax.

Precisely how the individual Christian or the Christian family seeks to receive the message of the Bible is not the most important question. What is vital is that in some way at some time, and that regularly, we learn to listen to God’s word and to feed upon it in our hearts.

To ‘do’ the truth is to practice what it teaches, to translate its message into action. This sounds simple, but it has far-reaching implications simply because the truth we have to ‘do’ is so rich.

Both life and health are – quite literally – impossible without God’s Word.

There are in the end only two possible attitudes to God’s word, to receive it or to reject it.

Stott, John. Understanding the Bible, Cox & Wyman, 1998

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5