Shocked by the picture that goes with this post? Did some of you think: “I knew it, the Watchdog has finally come out as an atheist who doesn’t believe the Bible.” On the contrary my friend. This is actually what I hear Christians tell me, and others, who question anything in the Bible. Sad isn’t it?
“If you don’t believe parts of the Bible, why not just go ahead and tear those pages out?”
“If I found any parts of the Bible I didn’t believe, I would throw the whole thing out.”
“You can’t pick and choose which parts you believe, you have to either believe it all or none!”
When confronted with statements like those above from students, the late Dean L. Russ Bush at Southeastern Seminary would simply and humbly tell his students something like this, and I'm paraphrasing:
"I sure hope you won’t do that. I sure hope you won’t throw it all out just because you have a problem with some passages. Why would you throw out all the parts you love and know to be truth just because you struggle with some passages. Please don’t do that.”
He was right. Of course, to be clear, Dean Bush led the battle for inerrancy of the Bible and I have no doubt that he did believe it all, and he did believe in its inerrancy, and to be clear, there is no basis to doubt that. But his point was, and is, still valid. There is no reason to adopt such statements, or take such harsh action, just because you doubt, or question, or are not sure about some passages. Where does this type of all or nothing thinking come from? Why is it now the litmus test for whether a person is truly saved or not? Why would such a respected leader for the fight for inerrancy ask students NOT to tear pages out, or throw it all out, yet many of you will tell people to do just that.
Thomas Jefferson didn’t believe it all. But he is oft cited as an example of the faith of our founding fathers. (Please go to Wikipedia and read about the “Jefferson Bible” to understand how far back, and how much further Jefferson takes this matter, then anything mentioned, suggested or discussed in the sum of these blog posts.)
I’m not going to write much about this subject except to answer in response to those of you that pose the types of questions above to me and to others like this:
The Bible you have in your homes has itself already had hundreds of pages “torn out” and entire books already determined by men to not be believed and not even included.
Will you spend even five minutes on research? Ever heard of the Apocrypha? The Gospel of Peter? The Gospel of Judas? The Book of Enoch? The Gospel of Thomas? There are too many to list. Ever ask or consider or research how the books of the Bible were chosen? Who made the decision to include one book but not another? Why were some books not acceptable? What happened to those who disagreed with the decision makers?
Let me summarize years of research for you. A group of religious MEN (sorry ladies) decided which books to include. They were able to pick and choose which ones they agreed were reliable and which ones they didn’t want to include for whatever political, religious or societal reasons they thought best. They literally tore out the parts they didn’t like, and ripped out or excluded the books they didn’t agree with. And, according to scholars and historians, they backed up their decision by destroying any copies of these books (or so they thought) and by excommunicating or even killing those that tried to question their decisions.
But we keep finding these books hidden in jars, or buried in the desert sands. Seriously, look it up. Even if you believe these men were inspired by God as to which books went into the canon, and which ones didn’t; and even if you trust their motives writing in the social and political times in which they met to make these decisions; the fact remains that someone had to pick and choose.
A circular argument would be “Well, the books they chose are God’s word otherwise they wouldn’t have included them in God’s word.” Whatever. The truth is you are trusting a group of religious, influential MEN, with their own motives and interests during times of social upheaval and turmoil, to pick and choose which books were to be trusted and believed and relied on and which ones were not. That's a lot of faith in men you don't even know. So please don’t tell me I can’t do the same thing with texts I do know; and with men I do know who are preaching it as if they are speaking for God almighty. I can, and will, and do pick and choose. And the indwelling Holy Spirit gives me discernment as to which parts are essential and truth, and which parts are not. And which parts I should apply to my life today, and which parts don't apply. And my pastor and seminarians don't like that. And for some reason, neither do many of you.
So my Christian brothers and sisters, I am not going to throw it all out. No matter what you say. And I’m not going to believe it all or none. No matter what you say. And I’m not going to be all tore up about those of you who disagree with me. Good for you. I don't want you to change your beliefs. I don't care what you believe. I hope it works for you. But as my previous posts point out, when it causes division and hurt to others, I have to question whether you actually believe it all, or live like you believe it all, anyway. I could be wrong. But praise Jesus he didn’t say I had to be right, or that I had to believe it all or none in order to be saved. It's called a tertiary issue. Your theological dogma is not my dogma. So there.