I was listening to a formal debate on whether churches should have women preachers and I found an interesting argument supporting that position:
The Bible isn’t God’s word, but it contains God’s word. Paul wrote what he thought, but he wasn’t writing for God. Same with Moses, etc. – they were not writing God’s words, but what they wanted to write.
Now I have to say right out that I think that’s crazy. Not because I don’t think it is true (I don’t, but someone isn’t wrong just because they don’t agree with me) but because if one believes that, then upon what (other than your own preferences) do you base your belief system on? I do admire this lady for one thing: she has the courage to actually state this – I think many people believe it but won’t actually say it in public.
I’m not saying that someone is stupid if they believe this. I sure hope that’s not the case because I’ve made this exact argument before. I’m just saying that if you really think about it, you can’t hold this position because it doesn’t make sense. If it is true the Bible doesn’t hold any meaning for us – it is no better than any self-help book that tries to show us how to live better. If you can pick and choose which parts to believe, you can support pretty much anything.
I’m stating flat out that the Bible is either true, or it isn’t. It is either God’s perfect, consistent, complete word, or it isn’t. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area here – it is black and white.
If you side with me here then you and I may disagree on what Paul meant when he said this or that but if the words in the Bible say that what Paul was writing was inspired, we can’t just ignore them. Here are a few sample verses that show that the Bible states that Paul is writing inspired doctrine, not his own words: 1 Corinthians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 7:10, Ephesians 3:3-5, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 2 Peter 3:15-16.
Again, either the Bible is true or it isn’t. It says that Paul was inspired and that is either true or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then we should ignore it all (or perhaps browse it for some common sense “good ideas”). If it is then we should obey it…completely. But it can’t be partially true and we can’t pretend that it is.
Well, of course we can – and we do, all the time. What I mean is that we can’t do that and be consistent or intellectually honest. What we want to do (what I’ve absolutely done, to my shame) is pick the things we like, focus on those, and ignore the rest. As C.S. Lewis says, that’s what allows two people to both claim to be Christians while arguing for completely opposite things. I think one of the most serious (and common) mistakes is this: we create a Jesus who agrees with us, then we worship that Jesus.
I’ve done that for years, but have recently decided to stop. Either the Bible is God’s word or it isn’t. I’ve decided that it is, and that means that I’ve got to live by what it says. Even if I sometimes don’t like it. Because here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter what I want, or what I like, all that matters is what God wants. His job is to define that, my job is to do it. I may not understand all that the Bible says, but I understand enough to know that I’ve not been following it. And I can’t look Jesus in the eye and justify my past behavior – and let’s be honest, if we can’t do that, we’re in deep trouble.