Tag Archives: Battle for the Bible

Common ground on Biblical inerrancy

After a day of more watching than participating in (yet) another round of Scripture inerrancy debates on the internet I’m more convinced than ever that it’s an unwinnable (on either side) debate that, in the end, leaves people pretty much where they started, howbeit, likely with raised blood pressure. Since I hold to the established “all things necessary to our salvation” stance of my denomination, I lean away from the “if Creation didn’t take a literal 6 days we can’t believe anything in the Bible” approach. Still, I’m not unsympathetic to reading the great stories of the Bible as literally true.

One problem I see is that those who caution against a fundamentalist inerrant position end up pointing out what they see to be “errors” in the Bible and, frankly, there’s plenty of ammunition. It’s obvious to me that the writers of Scripture generally wrote from their own limited view of the world. The Lord gave them terrific insights into how God works in the world, but, apparently, he didn’t mind it if the writers continued in their lack of knowledge of how the world works (round and not flat, etc.).

The problem for me is that I have no interest in being the person in a debate about the Bible who is pointing out “errors.” I have a high view of Scripture and believe I find in the Bible everything I need to know to be saved.

The answer, for me, is to decline to be a part of the debate at that level. Since our denomination believes the Bible inerrantly teaches us how to be saved I insist that the measure of its validity has to be whether or not it accomplishes its task. I firmly believe it does. To say it more simply, I think the purpose of the Bible is to teach us how to be saved and I believe the Bible accomplishes that task perfectly because its divinely inspired.

This approach actually helps me find common ground with my fundamentalist friends. They too believe that the Bible “inerrantly reveals the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.” They go farther than that, but at least we agree at this, the most important point. Who knows, maybe we can build on that and avoid squabbling about our differences and do something for God instead?

I’m glad Peter said Sarah called Abraham “Master”

1 Peter 3:5-6 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6  like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

I’m glad Peter said Sarah called Abraham “Master.”  Before you start laughing at me let me explain why. Peter is obviously writing to his own culture here. No preacher in his right mind would suggest that this is God’s mandate for women everywhere and for all time.  You see the writers of the Bible often apply principles to their on their own culture and that’s what’s happening here.  I have to be careful that I don’t fall into the “The Bible says it and that settles it” trap.  Remember that Paul tells Timothy that we’re to be good students, rightly applying the Word of God to our lives

This “Master” business highlights how important that is.  Am I to take this statement literally, and insist that all wives must, from now on call heir husbands “Master” or do I look at the culture of the Bible, the culture today, and find the principle in play here?  I think “the principle” approach is the one we want, so what is it?  That makes things easy: it’s a beautiful thing when a wife loves and respects her husband – that’s it!  Easy!

Let’s take it one step farther.  It’s my belief that the few passages of the N.T. in which women are limited in some way (be silent, don’t teach, wear long hair) are based on good principles being applied to local cultural concerns.  That principle is that people aren’t to demand their rights if their doing so somehow hinders the spread of the gospel.  Otherwise, there’s a broader Christian principle to apply: Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

God works in the lives of women the same as he does in the lives of men, using them for his purposes – for the advancement of his Kingdom on earth

Peter also tells women “do not give way to fear.”  I think these words are especially meaningful in our society today.  On one hand, Christian women hear the call of what might be labeled radical feminism – “claim your rights” — “you’re just as capable, or even more capable than men, don’t let them walk all over you.”

On the other hand, Christian women hear the call of Christian fundamentalists: “the Bible says for you to keep quiet.”  Women of God find themselves in the middle.  On one hand it’s not about our “rights.”  On the other hand we want to be careful to read and understand the principles behind what the Bible says.

So we take hits from both sides.  Without joining the battles and not being afraid of what people say or think and we focus on getting the Good News of the Gospel preached.

My skirmish with the KJV only battle for the Bible

Around 25 years ago I was asked to do pulpit supply just one Sunday in SW OK. We drove out to the church, arriving just before Sunday School. I said I’d just sit in the empty nursery at the back of the sanctuary and collect my thoughts for the message rather than sit in the sanctuary for the adult class.

However, I could hear what was being said in the class. The teacher was talking about versions of the Bible and how he could never be a part of a church that used anything but a KJV. Everyone seemed to be in agreement. There I sat with my NIV in my lap preparing to preach the only sermon I would ever preach there.

I didn’t want to stir anything up, so I slipped down to the church basement where the only other class, the teens, were meeting. I looked in several empty rooms, sure that there’d be an old KJV laying around somewhere. No luck.

Back upstairs, I could see that there was a pastor’s study off the platform and I guessed that there would be a Bible there.

The adult class ran just a bit long and, since everyone was already in the sanctuary by then, they wanted to get right to the service. I said I’d like to step into the pastor’s study for just a second. Some folks gave me a strange look, wondering what I needed to do that for after having been praying in the nursery for all of Sunday School.

In the study, there were several nearly empty bookshelves, but I didn’t see a Bible. Then, as they were starting the music for the service, I spotted a stack of a few rag-tag Bibles. I grabbed the one that looked the most presentable and hurried to my assigned spot on the platform.

I opened the Bible.

It was written in Chinese.

(During the offering I retrieved one of the more ragged looking Bibles – it was KJV.)

What Nazarenes Believe

One of the first questions people ask about a church is “What do you believe.”  Since I want our alvinnazarene.org website to actually minister and serve as an outreach for the church I made the effort some years ago to put pertinent portions of the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene on the site, under the subject of “Our Faith.”  According to the server logs those pages receive many hits as people search for “What do Nazarenes believe about….”

Recently, our beliefs concerning the Bible have come under scrutiny from a small, but vocal group, so I’ve referred people to our Articles of Faith.  People don’t have to agree with what Nazarenes believe about the Bible, but they ought to be honest enough to not pretend that some denominational leader or pastor is being something less than “Nazarene” for believing exactly what our Manual says.  To attack a Nazarene for believing about the Bible what Nazarenes have believed about the Bible since 1928 is either an indication that one is ignorant about what Nazarenes believe or is somewhat dishonest.  Anyway, you’ll find that information under Article IV here: http://www.alvinnazarene.org/articles-of-faith-faith.html

The main purpose of this post, though, is not to rehash all that tired old stuff.  Rather, as I worked through this section of the church website, updating the information to be sure it meshes with the new 2009-2013 version of the Manual I’m impressed with how complete and well thought out it is.  Our theology is a “thinking man’s theology” and it is no where more clear than in the statements of our Church Manual.

As I think about issues like “Human Sexuality” and “War and Military Service” I’m proud of both my heritage and of the current application of our faith.

You’ll find lots of thoughtful material on how Christians apply Biblical principles to life in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene.


Fundamentalists and Emergents and the rest of us

It feels as though a civil war is brewing between those who are seeking to drag my denomination into whatever it is that the future holds and those who are trying to drag us into fundamentalism. After years of Nazarene (hopefully) sanctified smugness that our Zion avoided the divisive pitfalls of the Battle for the Bible, a few who have no respect for our longstanding “plenary inspiration” and “all things necessary for salvation” approach to Biblical inerrancy are taking advantage of the Internet to organize and then put pressure on the denomination to take a big step toward joining the bloody fights over the nature of Scripture that have wounded other groups.

Meanwhile, the second group is busily trying to re-invent Christianity. These people are less than impressed with the track record of the Church over the last 100 years or so and think the problem is that culture has changed while the Church has stayed the same, perfecting an approach to Christianity that’s only of interest to “insiders” and irrelevant to “outsiders.” Their movement, overall, is called “emerging” because it’s not very well defined. No one claims to know how things will look in 100 years, but proponents hope the result will be a revitalized, world changing Christianity.

The fundamentalist-leaning and the emergent-leaning Nazarenes get along like cats and dogs. Fundamentalism is all about believing the right things. Its tenants are well defined. “Emergentism” isn’t very organized and its proponents are more united by a desire to bring new life to Christianity than they are organized around any unifying doctrinal position.

When an emergent and a fundamentalist interact they drive one another crazy. The fundamentalist is angry that he can’t pin the emergent down on things that matter the most to him. The emergent tends to be dismissive of the fundamentalist, thinking that his approach has already been proven to be a failure as the influence of Christianity is waned in many areas of the world.

Interacting with these groups is a challenge. The fundamentalist is a labeler. He tags everyone who doesn’t line up with his rigid positions as an enemy. It isn’t hard to get on the wrong side of a fundamentalist. His approach is “if you’re not with us you’re against us.”

On the other hand, it’s easy to get on the good side of an emergent. You can believe a variety of things yet agree that the Church needs to change to reach the lost and be okay in their eyes. You don’t have to really be one of them so long as you aren’t actively opposed to them. Their approach is “if you’re not against us you’re for us.”

Personally, I’m not a fundamentalist because I hold to the traditional Church of the Nazarene approach to Scripture. That is, I think the Bible is fully inspired by God and is inerrant in matters pertaining to our salvation. I can’t be a fundamentalist because I refuse to shoehorn all the historical, scientific, and other “not necessary for our salvation” material into an “it has to be literal or the Bible’s not true” classification.

I get along with the emergents okay, but I’m not one of them. I’m a baby boomer and I don’t think in post-modern terms as they do. To me they feel a bit clannish and sometimes come off as a little arrogant.   I’m not convinced that their approach is going to be the big, world changing version of Christianity that they think it will. Still, I guardedly cheer them on. I don’t want to see them de-Christianize Christianity, but I’m ready to see Christianity find itself, to fall in love with Jesus all over again, and to get back to living the Great Commandment and obeying the Great Commission.