The Bible is not God

Many people seem to confuse faith in God with faith in the inerrancy of the Bible. Ergo, if you question the Bible, you’re questioning God. Not so–the Bible and God are not the same thing. God is…um…let’s see here…okay, let’s just say God is God. (We’ll solve that easy question later.) But the Bible? That’s a quantifiable, human-made compilation of some really awesome/terrifying/boring stories written by humans about God. We might say that many of these humans were divinely inspired, but that is not the same thing as saying that the Bible is on par with God (or Jesus).

This question came up at another site when somebody made the following statement:

“As the Bible is ALL ABOUT Jesus to declare it to be in error is to cast doubt about Jesus.”

(Here’s what I had to say):

You are conflating faith in Jesus with faith in the accuracy of the Bible, but one does not depend on the other. It is belief in Jesus Christ – not in biblical accuracy – that is the source of our salvation. Whether we believe the Bible is “in error” to some degree is ultimately a secondary matter.

Believing in Jesus Christ as Savior does not mean that you must avert your eyes to the contradictions, and yes, there are plenty, found in the Bible. Neither must we make excuses for depictions of horrific violence, nor for the disturbing ancient practices found in the Bible. The Bible itself does not claim that it is infallible, just like it does not claim that it must be taken 100% literally.

Having said that, I do not believe that the Bible is “in error” so much as “in flux”. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments there are full on disagreements between the biblical authors themselves–particularly how previous texts should be interpreted, or what God’s real priorities were.

In some cases, biblical authors wrote texts designed to “correct” what they saw as flaws in the standard versions of particular stories. (For a classic example of this, read the David narratives in II Samuel, then read how the author of the Chronicles retold the story, changing significant details as he saw fit.)

But you can call into question some parts of the Bible without saying the whole thing is useless! The Bible was written by faithful Israelites and Christians, many of whom we would consider to be divinely inspired. It is our heritage, and there is much to be learned from our ancestors.

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13 Responses to “The Bible is not God”

  1. Jim Says:

    You are in error. The Bible “is” the inerrant, God Breathed word of God. He could have wriiten it using toads if He so chose but He used men inspired by the Holy Spirit to provide us with a “User Manual”. All one needs to know in life is encompassed between the covers of this Book. Even Jesus attested to this.

    • JD Says:

      I have searched and found many contradictions in the Bible. Even Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Who is Christian) has said, “Anyone claiming there are no contradictions in the Bible: Have they read the same Bible that I have?” I could go to any number of sites giving a long list of these contradictions and smother this site with a list that scrolls out for two miles, but I’ll leave that to you. But my guess is, that scares you and you won’t even try. I’ll give you one:
      I’ll paraphrase: When John the baptist was asked if he were Elijah, he said, No, I am the voice crying in the wilderness. But when Jesus was asked the same question, his answer was, For those who can accept it, he IS Elijah. Now, I have searched high and low for an answer to this and all I get are convoluted songs and dances to try and get around this problem. The answers are reaching and assume some prior knowlege that, apparently, God wasn’t able to anticipate. So even if there was an answer to resolve this difficulty it still points out what a bad writer God supposedly is for not making things clearer.

      I also will submit that claiming the Bible is perfect is the highest form of idolatry: The Bible is NOT GOD! God is God!

      I am also asked that if I believe in Christ, how then can I not believe in the perfection of the book that attests to him? And my answer would be , for the same reason I believe Abraham Lincoln was really one of the presidents of the United States without having to believe that everything written about him historically is 100% true. The truth of Christ’s significance is his effect on your life and the realization in each Christian as they review their lives that forgiveness is prerequisite to the removal of guilt, the development of our consciousness and conscience to help us to learn to love-to be more like Christ, and finally for salvation-salvation from our dark nature and salvation from death. Anyone who has ever had a crisis in their lives knows this to be true. God and his loving gift, Jesus Christ, is no joke. But I don’t have to place a Bible on an alter and bow before it to receive Jesus into my life. In fact, I used to proclaim atheism specifically because of the difficulties with the Bible because literalists like yourself would insist that I can’t truly believe unless I accept the Bible as inerrant. Well, any fool can see it’s errant and whenever I would read a passage that obviously wouldn’t gel with another, I would assume that if there was an imperfection in one part of the Bible, then can any of it be trusted? Is Jesus just another Jim Jones of an earlier century? So then i would forego faith and throw the baby (Jesus) out with the bathwater (religion).

      This literalist posting here would rob from me what faith I do have. He will not accept my faith in Christ until I conform to his literalist views and make a god out of the Bible. If I were to conform to your views sir, I would eventually find that I would have to lie to myself to reconcile the obvious problems in the Bible and as that would prove unsettling, I would once again lose whatever faith I had and would turn to atheism. Is that what you want for me to do?

      • Tom Ryberg Says:

        Your insights here are really important and true, JD. Thank you so much for your personal reflections. It has struck me as odd before how the two groups who seem most invested in Christians maintaining strict biblical literalism are Christian fundamentalists, and atheists – the former, because they want to withhold the blessing of Christian faith from anyone who comes at it differently from themselves, and the latter, because it’s far easier to argue with a literalist Christian than someone whose faith does not hinge on biblical accuracy.

        Anyway, thanks for the good food for thought.

        Peace,
        TR

        P.S. My blog has a new home these days: http://tomryberg.wordpress.com. And I just kicked off a new blog with my friend who is an atheist Jew, and who is wicked smart and funny: http://apriestandarabbi.wordpress.com

  2. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Hi Jim,
    Welcome to the site. As far as I can tell, you are making 2 main claims:

    1. The Bible is the inerrant, God Breathed word of God (as literally transcribed by humans).
    2. All one needs to know in life is encompassed between the covers of this book, according to Jesus.

    It is your first claim that I take issue with, not the second. The Bible itself does not claim to be inerrant. There is no commandment, from Jesus or otherwise, that one must assume that the Bible is perfect in order to attain salvation. If you know otherwise, please let me know. Rather, salvation is dependent upon (1) our relationship with God through Jesus and (2) our relationship with each other, as commanded by Jesus.

    I also am not familiar with biblical evidence that every verse in the canonized Bible was “God Breathed,” by which you seem to mean literally dictated by God. This claim is also absent from the Bible. Again, if you can show me differently, please let me know.

    I am not contending that the Bible is useless, but I do strongly advocate that we not make false assumptions about it or venerate it beyond what it is: a collection of divinely inspired historical accounts, wisdom, songs, allegories, parables, and stories, with which we may develop our own relationships with God and Christ. Remember that as Christians, our faith does not depend upon assumptions of biblical inerrancy, but upon Jesus.

  3. Mike Says:

    Jesus was all about love and forgiveness; everything else was made-up.

    “Beliefs separate. Loving thoughts unite.” — Paul Ferrini

  4. FranIAm Says:

    Tom- well I agree with you. This is a fine post in my eyes. But then again, who am I but a neo-pagan idol worshipping papist?

    So we don’t take the Bible literally, as you know.

    That is not to say that I do not read and study it regularly, even we have updated ourselves on that account. I have my own commitment to daily Scripture.

    I could make many arguments for the problems with absolute literalness, but will not.

    I will say that my entire being is predicated on my love of God in the form of the Holy Trinity, with Jesus Christ as Lord.

    If someone wants to split biblical hairs, they can have at it. I will simply shake the dust from sandals and move to the next blog.

    Peace brother.

  5. Mike Says:

    For you reading pleasure and education.

    Religious Tolerance
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/statbelief.htm

    Christian beliefs
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chrcarddoc.htm

    Inerrancy: Is the Bible free of error? All points of view.
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/inerrant.htm

    Who is a Christian?
    A simple question, with many answers
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_defn.htm

  6. Tom Ryberg Says:

    Thanks for the resources, Mike!

  7. Errancy Says:

    “It is belief in Jesus Christ – not in biblical accuracy – that is the source of our salvation. Whether we believe the Bible is “in error” to some degree is ultimately a secondary matter.”

    Amen! Preach it, brother!

  8. stella Says:

    Applause! Applause! You are absolutely right on all points.

  9. hans Says:

    Prior to the Reformation, the Bible (which the first Christians didn’t even have) was used to justify Papal authority, the real presence, seven sacraments, clerical celibacy, and many other things that Protestants rejected as unscriptural, even though Catholics DID and still do cite scripture to support these things.

    Obviously, (despite Luther having said that reason and intellect were enemies of faith that must be destroyed) reason and intellect DID enter into the picture. Protestants QUESTIONED traditional interpretations of Scripture and came to different conclusions. Instead of one official interpretation, there were many. How strange is it then for Bible-oriented Protestants today to say that believers cannot question or interpret the Bible “differently” when the Reformation was founded in part on doing just that – approaching Scripture with reason, in the light of God’s grace in the here and now!

  10. The Bible is not God « Signposts 02 Says:

    […] January 14, 2008 — Tom Ryberg […]


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