The reason that faith and belief are used interchangeably is because belief is the starting point of faith. Without belief faith cannot grow. Our beliefs don’t pop into our minds out of thin air, rather, there are sources that lead us to the particular beliefs that we have.
For the person who follows Jesus we believe that there is one primary source for our beliefs: The Bible. As a Christian I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God that guides me in the life that I was created to live. The Bible is trustworthy and reliable in communicating the truth of God to us.
Recently John Pavlovitz posted on his blog 10 Things This Christian Doesn’t Believe about the Bible. I find John’s reasoning both naive and shallow. After reading what he wrote, one is left to wonder what the purpose of the Bible is. It certainly isn’t the source of truth that Christians throughout history have believed it is.
What doesn’t John believe about the Bible?
- He doesn’t believe that the Bible was dictated by God. Which I agree. That is why we talk about the Bible being inspired rather than dictated. Using the language, talents, and memories of men God inspired them to write the truth that He wanted to share with people. That is why the Bible is diverse and is written from different perspectives.
- He doesn’t believe the creation accounts as they are written. Many Christian Scholars don’t, but these accounts are more than just mere poetry meant to inspire. These accounts are meant to teach a people, who were steeped in polytheism, that there is only One True God and He created the world. Despite the similarities that the Genesis account has with other creation stories, it differs on some key details. For instance, many creation accounts happen after a great battle by the gods and the earth was created from the defeated god. We may not be able to rely on the Bible to give us precise scientific information about creation, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth about our origins.
- He doesn’t believe that Bible accurately represents women for our times. Shocker: the Bible was written in a different time in a different culture that had different values! Something that John seems to have missed is the way that the teachings found in the Bible began to raise the status of women. While they are few and far between there are women who are heroes of faith: Deborah, Ruth (who was also a Gentile), and Esther. In the New Testament we read about women involved in ministry and leadership. Romans 16 provides us with a glimpse of the role of women in the early church. Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity has an entire chapter about women and the church as these first Christians interacted with Scripture and sought to live it out. Don’t confuse information about the culture with the commands of Scripture.
- He doesn’t believe that the Bible has much to say about gender identity and sexual orientation. In sense he is right because these are topics that are not addressed in the Bible. For the most part they are modern phenomena. The Bible does address the issue of homosexual behavior, which it clearly condemns. The problem we face here is that of Political Correctness, because if we begin to work out what the Bible teaches and apply it to these areas of life, then we are not going to appeal to the progressives and the Social Justice Warriors of our day. In fact everyone is confused about what the “correct” thought should be. In the Bible we discover that God created people male or female. This reality is confirmed by biology. Science teaches us that what determines male and female are chromosomes. Two X chromosomes means you are a female and an X and a Y chromosome means you are a male. This reality remains whether or not you have surgery to change your appearance. It is easy and affirming to teach people to go along with their feelings, but it is hard to tell them to make choices that go against their instincts, even if those choices will be better for them in the long run.
- He doesn’t believe that the Bible provides a unified message about marriage, war, violence, or sex. I have written about the message the Bible provides about marriage before. The short version is that God’s ideal for marriage has always been between one man and one woman. Chasity was one of the Christian virtues that set the early Church apart, and therefore I would believe that the Bible provides a consistent message about sex as well. With regards to war and violence, what we see in the early church is that many Christians were pacifists, it was only with Emperor Constantine and the Church gaining political power that there was a discussion about “just war”. What seems to confuse people like John is that God works with people and cultures with where they are in the moment. The fact that God aided Israel in her wars in the Old Testament does not equate God commanding the Church to go to war with our enemies.
- He doesn’t believe the Bible is without error. What does he mean by error? Without an example of an error it is hard to point out his error. Here is a transcript of Dr. William Lane Craig talking about inerrancy. Here is William Lane Craig answering a question about inerrancy. The main problem here is that the way John frames this point he is basically saying we cannot trust the Bible.
- He doesn’t believe the Bible is the only way we can experience or hear God. That certainly is the reality that we find in Scripture. Moses had a burning bush experience, others witnessed miracles, and others had visions. What the Bible is is the primary way God communicates His truth to us. That is why we are to measure our experiences by the standard of the Bible. We will experience God in different ways, but the Bible will help us to know if those experience are authentic or false.
- He doesn’t believe the government should be guided by the Bible. Why this is even a point I don’t know. I guess he wants to appeal to the people who think Christians want to establish a theocracy. Government is always going be guided by people and those people are going to rely on their beliefs to guide them. Whenever there are Christian people who believe the Bible involved in government, then there will be people who use the Bible to guide their policies. It is just the way the world works.
- He doesn’t believe the Bible can be objectively interpreted or evaluated. In other words the Bible is a nice book, but we can’t rely on it. Throughout history the Church has found value in the study and interpretation of Scripture. Yes, there have been disagreements about different passages and points of doctrine, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot discover the truth the Bible contains. This is just postmodern hogwash that wants to blur reality and tell people that we can’t really know what truth is.
- He doesn’t believe the Bible is worthy of worship. I come from a background that values the Bible. Never once have I ever met a person who was close to worshiping the Bible. The fact that people put a high value on Scripture doesn’t equate to that person worshiping the Bible. This is another progressive claim that has little basis in reality.
John Pavlovitz wants us to know that he is not like those dumb conservative Christians who take their Bible a little too seriously. He is cool and progressive and ready to move with times, even if it means leaving the source of Christian belief behind.
God has given us a great gift in the Bible. Don’t neglect it or minimize it. Read it, study it, and live it.