14 February 2015

Not asking the same questions about the Bible

I recently picked up Craig Blomberg's Can we Still Believe the Bible? I have to admit to being very surprised by the questions he addresses. The introduction mentions that there are six issues that evangelicals are bringing up in response to the Bible.

The titles of the chapters reflect these 6 issues:
      "1. Aren't the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?
       2. Wasn't the Selection of Books for the Canon Just Political?
       3. Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?
       4. Don't These Issues Rule Out Biblical Inerrancy?
       5. Aren't Several Narrative Genres of the Bible Unhistorical?
       6. Don't All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?"
Although I was intrigued by what he had to say about different genres and can imagine this being a difficult area for the average reader of the Bible, I have to admit that I don't understand the difficulties with the other issues. I can understand that people might not understand exactly how our translation of the Bible has come to us, especially when supposed experts are forever talking about the original text actually meaning something different than what we might expect from our translation. Yet, these questions are fairly easy to address with basic knowledge about the history of the Bible (and the original languages), so how have they become issues within the church today?

I can imagine that people might have difficulties with God as presented in the Bible, as God does not come across as particularly gracious, fair or consistent (and Christians are even worse!). I personally find this difficult to understand and don't really know how to address this. At the same time, years of studying the biblical text have only increased my love for it, my appreciation for (but also skepticism of) biblical scholarship (done by Christians and non-Christians), and my delight in following a God who is beyond my comprehension and continues to surprise me.

The conclusion of Blomberg's book helps address my questions about these issues. In the conclusion, he criticizes how some evangelicals have been part of making things issues that do not need to be issues. For example, the concept of inerrancy has caused more difficulties than good. This does not mean that inerrancy is an inherently a wrong concept. Christians, after all, do need to believe Bible and God is trustworthy. At the same time, he points out (page 221) that we do not need to believe whole Bible is without error to live a faithful Christian life.

This book also reminds me of how the church needs good biblical scholars to help out those who are struggling and, even more importantly, to keep the focus on the important questions of what the Bible says, who God is, and how we are to respond.


Tom Braun said...

I strongly recommend Peter Enns on this subject, either "Inspiration and Incarnation" or "The Bible Tells Me So."

Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Tom. I do appreciate Peter Enns' book and think he has a lot of good to say. At the same time, I don't agree with all the conclusions he comes to. In The Bible Tells Me So, I think he's addressing the right questions for today (like how can a good, merciful God have commanded the genocide of Canaan), but I find his answer too freely brings into question the historicity of the text (he argues that God didn't actually command the genocide).