From the outset I am not trying to put the bible down, rather I believe that we have elevated it to an unhealthy and unhelpful level that actually undermines it’s value and it’s authority. My concern is that very few “christians” lives actually change or are different to those who aren’t christian and I think the way we use the bible has a big part to play in that.
We live in a world where their are 2 basic objective ways of knowing things, these are called epistemologies and they are the scientific and the historical epistemology. Many people live in just one or the other and many live using both to know what we know about life and the world around us.
What the scientific epistemology is great at helping us know is all the stuff that is repeatable and observable, these are the things that you can isolate, control the environment and then replicate and you will be guaranteed the same outcome. This method is a great tool to have for working out objectively how we know stuff. However we can’t use it for all objective knowing. Have you ever wondered how people can even try to argue the Holocaust didn’t happen? I believe it is because those people are arguing from a scientific epistemology, it’s the wrong tool for the job, like a women trying to put her makeup on with a screw driver.
That brings me to the historical epistemology which is great at observing singularities, one-off events. Science not only can’t objectively prove faith, but it can’t really prove singularities either because it needs something to be repeatable. All people are in themselves singularities and so we look to historical evidence not scientific to prove their existence.
Thanks for hanging in there with me so far. The point is this for so many of us christians, when we say the bible is the “Word of God” we use it as our epistemology to know all sorts of things, we use the bible to argue a point, holding it up as the ultimate book of answers to all life’s questions. The problem is that the bible doesn’t claim to be the ultimate answer book.
We also often claim that the bible is objective truth, that the problem with the world is that all truth is relative. However we undermine ourselves with our multiple interpretations that we are willing to defend to the death.
Then you get a large group of christians who give way too much power to their own words. This as I understand it comes largely out of the faith movement where it is all about declaring the promises and speaking things out (only positive of course). The basic idea is that the bible is God’s word so when we His word with our words, they become his words in our situation, filled with immense power. There are all sorts of variations to this approach but to me it ends up being selfish, greedy, manipulative and looks a lot like casting spells if I am very honest.
This brings me to Jesus being the Word of God and here I want to share a little bit of what I like to call an epistemology of love. In Genesis we see God speak the words and creation happens, but if we look at Jesus in Johns Gospel we find that Jesus is the word which is involved in that creative process. In other words when God was creating the first time and he spoke, I don’t believe his words magically made the stars, rather I believe his words refer to his authority, that Jesus, carries that authority in himself, lovingly obeys and creates the stars etc.
We also see in Johns Gospel, that it is actually the account of New Creation, that once again Jesus is front and centre in bringing forth the new creation. However the way to the new creation is to bring an end to the old which is done spectacularly through the greatest, most objective display of love ever given. It describes the nature of love which is self-sacrificing. It is also the basis/foundation of the new creation.
The basis and the reason the old creation will come to an end is because it was corrupted by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I think that when we use the bible to tell us what is right and what is wrong, we are still tapping into that tree. When however when we see Jesus as the Word of God, we tap into the Tree of Life, which was paralleled by the cross. It is the reason why we need a new creation, it is the foundation of new creation and as we receive this self-sacrificing love, and then begin to release it in the world around us, we will be releasing as Jesus did the new creation into the midst of the old. We will be living from the epistemology of love.
I am not saying we as chrisitans should through out history and science, not at all, but hopefully I have been able to give you a glimpse of how a self-sacrificing love, can give us and take us to places that history and science on their own, never will.
To put it another way when we make the bible “God’s Word”, instead of having a relationship with the person of truth, who enters our lives and transforms us, we try to master the book, categorise it, package and market it, and ultimately once we are done we put it back on the shelf. The only time we pick it up again is to justify a favourite behaviour or to win an argument. How is that objective, how is that life transforming, it isn’t really.
We need a more dynamic, more transforming, more living, more loving truth than that. What we need is Jesus.
(this reflects my current journey and understanding, it is not the end but the beginning for me. I would love to converse with you around this issue as I need and we all need to grow in this area)