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Archive for January, 2021

Isn’t It Best To Consider Not All Of The Bible Is Inspired By God?

Despite contradictions and moral challenges in the Bible, many hold on to an inspired Bible for fear the Bible will be discarded for “whatever goes” in understanding God.  But it seems obvious, even without a Bible, a Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others (aka common moral sense). I don’t know any reasonable human being who doesn’t respect the universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated. The Bible can be viewed as God’s love story beginning with Israel and culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other document. God didn’t necessarily inspire or approve of everything written about God. Reading the Bible encourages questioning and contemplating what a loving God is really like.

The Bible’s infallibility is a non-starter.

  • II Sam 24: 1 says God incited David to sin; I Chr 21:1 blames it on Satan
  • II Sam 24:24 has David paying fifty pieces of silver for Orman’s threshing floor; I Chr 21:25 says six hundred was paid
  • 2 Kgs 24:6 says Jehoiakim had a son; Jer 36:30 says Jehoiakim had no son to reign after him
  • Matthew 27:9-10 says Jeremiah mention thirty pieces of silver; it was Zechariah (Zech 11: 12)
  • Jesus said the rooster would crow once after Peter’s three denials (Mt 26.34, Lk 22:34, John 13:38), Mark says the rooster crowed twice (Mk 14:30)

The list of contradictions may be trivial but are sizable (Gregory Boyd, Inspired Imperfection, Chapter 1). It seems obvious God didn’t at least control the writers from being wrong in their factual information. Moral challenges are not so trivial. Did God really inspire acts or language of genocide? I Samuel 15:3 claims God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Hundreds of passages in the Old Testament advocate violence in God’s name. Did God really approve of laws that burned alive sexual offenders (Lev 20:14 21:9)?

One can only guess not prove every word in the Bible is inspired.    

Biblical writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” recorded hundreds of times in the Bible may be a figure of speech expressing inner impressions about God – right or wrong. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t lie but were honest in their understandings of God. Exodus 20: 1-17 starts by saying “all these words” when the 10 commandments were given to Moses from God. The 10 commandments are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:6-18 but with some slight word variation. Shouldn’t both passages be the same verbatim? Anyway, the Bible is suggested to be inspired or God-breathe because the biblical writers claim so. Such logic is circular.

 An inspired view of the Bible can be dangerous.

It would seem if God inspired an action attributed to God, that God approves such actions. Not questioning if writers always portrayed God accurately has led to justifying killing infidels in the name of God. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the Old Testament have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists admitted that God possibly didn’t approve of actions they interpret as denying freedom of beliefs! An inspired Bible has led to assuming God put men in leadership positions over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral intuitions, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

An inspired Bible leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations.

It is common to hear one argue “The Bible says” without one adding “according to my understanding.” The Bible can be used to defend opposite views regarding gays, women’s roles, the traditional understanding of Hell, etc. Literature requires interpretation! Some scholars hold on to inspiration views by claiming God accommodates less than perfect views written about God because humans can’t handle the truth. So, we still have to interpret which passages reveal the real God. We can avoid the slippery slope toward supposed inspired interpretations by acknowledging the Bible may be fallible.    

Questioning what is inspired by God can explain animal sacrifice.

Many ancient near eastern groups or nations before Israel had a sacrificial system like the Israelites. An uncontrolling God isn’t coercive but influential. It is doubtful God ever approved or desired to accommodate animal cruelty. This may explain why later OT writers wrote that God preferred contrite hearts over animal sacrifices (Ps 51:16-17, Jer 7:22, Micah 6:6). This understanding also leads to different interpretations of the Cross and views of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or did Jesus better convey God’s radical love and ways by submitting to wrongdoing? Using power to overcome often doesn’t accomplished the greater good.

What about the Bible claiming to be God-breathe though?

2 Tim 3:16-17 is the only time Scriptures used the Greek word “theopneustos” which literally means God-breathe: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

  • Keep in mind this could only refer to OT writings for the final NT canon didn’t exist and in fact many NT books had not even been written
  • God-breathe can also be interpreted literally as God-spirited. This could mean God uses writings (the Greek word for Scripture is “graphis” or writings) to touch our hearts without necessarily declaring such writings are infallible or perfect views of God. It is possible biblical writers perceived God wrongly but God still used that for correcting in righteousness.
  • God could even teach you something in this writing (post) 😊

Didn’t Jesus claim or imply the Old Testament was inspired by God?

Does John 5:45-46 claim that Jesus said believing in Jesus is believing what Moses wrote? No doubt Jesus revered and referred frequently to OT writings. This doesn’t confirm that Moses or any OT writer always wrote perfectly about God. Moses said to take an oath (Deut 6:13); Jesus said to take no oaths (Mt. 5:37). Jesus seemed to correct OT laws that didn’t fully or correctly convey God’s ways (Mt 5). Some scholars suggest Jesus was simply expanding or interpreting correctly OT laws. Regardless, we must use common moral sense because ancient literature requires interpretation. Finally, Jesus’ words can’t be the end all. Some interpret Jesus to justify violence in certain circumstances while others suggest Jesus argued for no violence.

Which understanding of God should we lean toward?  

Choose the interpretation about God that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Putting men in spiritual leadership positions over women can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Which interpretation? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but it is better to question than be wrong.

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. No other unrelated emails will be sent. Go to About/Using This Site tab at top of page or Menu on phones to help navigate this Site. If you wish to discuss anything I have written you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com . I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

Won’t We Screw Up Freedom In Heaven Too?

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. No other unrelated emails will be sent. Go to About/Using This Site tab at top of page or Menu on phones to help navigate this Site. If you wish to discuss anything I have written you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

It Matters If Your God Is Nurturing Or Authoritative!

I’m convinced belief in a benevolent God makes you kinder. We often treat others the way we think God treats us. How has God’s threats of punishment helped you break away from bad habits or behaviors you long to change? Grace or authoritativeness doesn’t guarantee change, but I believe we best change because of God’s or friends’ love and acceptance. Below is John Sander’s article on the topic in a book recently published Open and Relational Leadership: Leading with Love.  I also included a link below of my article in the book.

The Leadership of a Nurturant God

By John Sanders

Christian leaders should imitate the leadership style of the God who nurtures.

The pastor plopped his Bible down on the table, pointed to it, and said, “I want to know why you put a question mark where God put a period?”

He was upset about my book that surveyed a range of views that Christians hold on the topic of the destiny of those who never heard of Christ. He believed that biblical teaching on the topic was clear, simple, and singular. He did not like it that I rejected his position and, instead, endorsed a range of different views that in one way or another gave hope for the salvation of those who have never heard of Jesus.

The values underlying the different approaches taken by the pastor and me arise from what social scientists call Nurturant and Authoritative values. Nurturants believe it is best to empower people by affirming and loving them. Nurturants prize values such as listening to others, perspective taking, and humility. Authoritatives believe that followers must first obey the leaders before the leaders show acceptance to them. Authoritative leaders need not listen to others because they are the ones in charge and questioning the leader means challenging their authority. They think that perspective taking and humility are signs of weakness. Leaders should simply say, “Because I said so.”

Open theism is a variety of Nurturant morality while much of evangelicalism and conservative Catholicism are versions of Authoritative morality. The Apostle Paul implored Christians to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). Richard Kearney says, “Tyrannical Gods breed tyrannical humans.” We imitate the deity we believe in and there are those who believe in an Authoritative God and those who affirm a Nurturant God. Both Gods seek to create humans in their image. I claim that the overall biblical portrait is that of a nurturing God and that Christian leaders should emulate these characteristics. Some examples will show how this works.

Many biblical texts show that God is both responsive to our input and open to our prayers. For example, when God announced his intended judgment on Sodom, Abraham questioned and negotiated with God (Gen. 18). An Authoritative God would have told Abraham: “I am God so shut your mouth.” Instead, God patiently listened and considered Abraham’s concerns. In another story God and Jacob have an encounter and God wants to leave but Jacob (whose name means “grabber”) grabs onto God and wrestles all night long with God. In response, God blesses Jacob and gives him a new name—Israel, which means, “wrestles with God.” God approved of what Jacob did. In Exodus, God asked Moses to return to Egypt and liberate the Jewish people. However, Moses does not do what God says. Instead, he raises five problems with God’s plan. An Authoritative God would have said, “Go now, because I said so. Do not question my plan or authority!” But the Nurturant God was open to Moses’s questions and to each of them God reiterates that “I will be with you.” Even when Moses tells God to go “find somebody else,” God adjusted the divine plan by allowing Aaron to do the public speaking. Thus, God was flexible and adaptive in working with people.

The way God relates in these stories fits with Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, and not arrogant. It does not insist on its own way. Rather, love puts up with us, has faith in us, and places hope in us. God does not say, “It’s my way or the highway” nor does God display a “take it or leave it” attitude. Rather, God engages us with a give-and-take in which both parties contribute and God practices innovation and employs flexible plans. God works with us like a jazz band which requires improvisation from all the players. At various times, each player takes the lead and the other players have to respond to what the other is doing. Love, says Paul, is not boastful so God does not say, “My music is the only music that matters.” Rather, God delights in sharing the stage and seeing what music others produce. Of course, this involves some risk on God’s part because we may do things that harm others. Love trusts others but we can, at times, disappoint the beloved.

The Nurturant God listens to our input and is flexible in adjusting plans. God empowers us to participate in the vocation of redemption and delegates responsibility to us for many things. Sometimes we bring God success but we can also let God down. This is how a strong leader operates. Inflexible people who demand their own way are weak leaders. If God is a nurturing leader, then leaders who imitate God will treat others the way God treats us. They will love others by empowering them. They will put faith in others to accomplish a mission. They will hope for a better future.

Philosophers like to speak about God’s “great-making” properties by which they mean power and knowledge. God certainly has these but if Jesus is our best example of what God is like, then God’s great-making properties include love, empathy, humility, and perspective taking. As God incarnate, Jesus “walked a mile in our shoes.” God experienced what it is like to be human.

Genuine leaders are those who learn what other people in the organization are experiencing. In church and in business, leaders should find ways to understand the perspective of others and practice humility by being willing to learn from others. God does not micromanage the church. Rather, God puts divine trust in us. How is that for confidence? It is what church leaders should do as well. One thing that often prevents leaders from doing this is the fear that lack of control may result in others doing things that bring embarrassment on the congregation or organization. But God takes risks with us and we should do the same.

Another implication of the way God works with us is that churches should reject autocratic rulers. If God listens to us and considers our concerns, then leaders should foster democratic structures in order to hear the voices of others. In much of church history, leaders have been authoritarian, and pastors have been little potentates ruling over their piece of the kingdom. They are in charge and seek to control what others believe and do. Making sure that everyone has a voice and providing for some diversity should be a high priority for Nurturant leaders. In the Bible, the metaphor of God as a king is common. But God is quite an unusual king. A king who values what others have to say, exercises flexible strategies, and comes to us humbly in Jesus. This is true kingship and leadership.

One last area of leadership that I want to mention returns us to the story of the pastor criticizing my work for presenting different Christian views on a topic. If God trusts in us and is open to going in directions we want to pursue (as with Moses), then leaders should expect some diversity of viewpoints and practices. We should make room for a “constrained pluralism” of views and practices. We should be able to agree on some general Christian beliefs and practices. Yet, because we do not know everything and do not possess a foolproof understanding of what God wants, we should have humility in our claims to truth.

Throughout history, many church leaders affirmed the Authoritative God and sought to impose monopoly religion on everyone. They established all the correct beliefs and practices, such as those surrounding the Lord’s Supper, and anyone who thought differently was exiled, tortured, or burned at the stake. The Nurturant approach affirms a few general Christian truths and allows for a range of views. This is not an “anything goes” approach. Rather, it acknowledges that Christians, from the first century on, have always had some diversity. One can favor a particular understanding of say, baptism, while recognizing that other Christians think differently. In short, one can affirm a specific doctrine or practice as the best and tolerate other Christian views. A Nurturant approach expects some diversity while Authoritative religion fosters monopolies, uniformity, and punishes those who do not conform.

Christian leaders should imitate the Nurturant God. God is love and love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way. God values our input and invites us to join the divine band and create some music. God does not micromanage and control us. Instead, God empowers us and takes the risk that we may mess up along the way. In addition, God allows for a range of beliefs and practices—a constrained pluralism. Leaders should emulate these important values.

John Sanders is Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College. He is the co-author of The Openness of God, and author of The God Who Risks and Embracing Prodigals. He enjoys basketball and kayaking.

Does Godly Leadership Require Certainty About God? By Mike Edwards

 

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. No other unrelated emails will be sent. Go to About/Using This Site tab at top of page or Menu on phones to help navigate this Site. If you wish to discuss anything I have written you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

 

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