Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Biblical God

Don Rogers over at Reflections recently posted this quote.

"Those who claim they “believe the whole Bible” and “take it literally” are being dishonest. Their pastor may have preached recently on the story of the fall of Jericho, but it was applied to God “making the strongholds of sin in your life come crumbling down”, not to a battle plan to take a city.

To be fair, not all Biblical authors view God in the same way. And so there is no single “Biblical view of God”. But certainly God as depicted in some parts of the Bible is not the concept of the deity served by Christians today.

The question a Christian needs to ask is whether they have the courage to admit that their view of God is not the same as that of many depicitions in the Bible. Do you have the courage to take the Bible’s actual words completely seriously, even when the result is that you are forced to acknowledge that you do not accept their literal truthfulness?"
~from Dr. James McGrath’s "Exploring Our Matrix"

It says some things I've been thinking, and says them much better than I could.  What do you think?


Hermit said...

You really want to know?

I think many people who claim they believe the whole Bible and take it literally have at least an honest intent to describe their position. Obviously, a figure of speech shouldn't be taken literally, but they take literally all those parts which appear to be intended to be understood literally, and there are no parts of the Bible which they believe to be wrong or false and which they reject.

Re belief in the fall of Jericho, they probably believe that it is a historical event which occurred as described in the Bible. They may also see it having a lesson for us with regard to overcoming sin in one's personal life. They probably wouldn't use it as a battle plan to take a city, because they believe that it was a one-off event by God which we cannot expect to be repeated whenever we desire.

Re our view of God, which actual words do we not accept as literally true?

Jon said...

I think what he's getting at in his example is that by seeing it as having a lesson regarding overcoming sin, the reader has moved from a literal interpretation to a metaphorical one. The author of Joshua was certainly not talking about overcoming sin in your life, he was talking conquest.

Stepping back a little from the particular story, there is a thread in the Bible which includes Joshua which says you should stay pure and reject any contact or alliance with the surrounding nations. Then there is another one which includes Ruth and Isaiah and very spectacularly Jesus and Paul which says all the nations are welcome in God's kingdom. Which one is it?

Hermit said...

Yes, and we have a tendency to take lessons from Old Testament scriptures which I'm not sure we're supposed to do. Nevertheless, most fundies like me do believe that the fall of Jericho was a historical event that occurred as described and so they DO take that story literally. Just because God doesn't act like that today doesn't mean that He never did, or never will again.

In much of the Old Testament, salvation included adherence to the Law and salvation was through the Jews (Children of Israel). Now, especially from the Apostle Paul on, salvation is available to all the nations quite apart from the Jewish faith.

Easy answers I know, but it is honestly how I see things. Pardon me for not struggling with the difficulties liberals seem to see everywhere.

Jon said...

Being one of those "liberals" of course I'm not sure that those answers are as easy as you think. Salvation being from the Jews, for instance.

If salvation was from the Jews for instance, why in various books are they encouraged to seperate themselves completely from the surrounding nations and even to wipe them out? This suggests salvation for the Jews, on the basis of their ethnicity, not from the Jews on the basis of their faith.

How then can this be squared with the vision in Ruth of a community that welcomes foreigners and brings them into Israel, not to mention the vision in Isaiah 56 of all the nations coming to worship in the temple? As I've talked about in some of my posts, the problem with a focus on factuality is it makes it easy to strain out a gnat (harmonising various "facts)and swallow a camel (failing to notice a vast difference in approach). And all of this is before we even get to the big questions - like does the God who died on a cross support genocide?