Monday, January 22, 2007

Questioning the Bible

Christianity is conceptually difficult because it presupposes that a person can think the right things and know the right things to do, but he will still either fail to act perfectly or fail to act consistently, due to a fallen nature. Nobody gets to perfection in this life, even if some believers claim to have outlined the perfect system of belief, worship, doctrine and practice.

Most of Christian practice and worship, to some extent, is based on revelation. Revelation is tricky, because it assumes that God has spoken to humankind and humans wrote down what He said, and that the recorded revelation is to be valued more highly than the human faculty of reasoning. The clincher, however, is that believers use their reasoning to interpret and apply revelation, which seems to give credence to the point of view that humankind’s reason was not totally warped and completely marred by the Fall. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is supposed to enhance the Christians’ faculties of reasoning regarding interpretation of Scripture, yet many of those who claim to have that indwelling just happen to disagree with one another on their interpretations of doctrinal and theological issues that intersect with the Bible.

However, none of that challenges the Bible’s value. I once heard someone say (I cannot remember who) that plenty of intellectually inclined people spend their time questioning everything, but don't allow anything to question them. The Bible, at very least, is one of those books that questions its readers. The questioning is not always in the form of a question; sometimes the questioning occurs in the context of assumptions made in the texts. Jacques Ellul, the French Protestant thinker, said in the book In Season, Out of Season: “[T]he Bible is not a recipe book or an answer book, but the opposite: it is a book of questions God asks us.”

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