Some problems with calling the Bible God’s Word
When I was at Bible school beginning my study to be an apologist, I spent countless hours studying and rethinking my perspective on the Bible as God’s Word. What follows are some of the problems I ran into that I could not reconcile to a level of satisfaction in my mind:
1) Saying God’s Word is inerrant or infallible seems pointless because interpretation is subject to error. What is the point of a god who makes an inerrant or infallible book and then gives the Holy Spirit to help interpret it if believers themselves still do not know what most of it actually means or if people are always updating or changing their interpretation? The very fact that in two thousand years no one can still figure out how to inerrantly or infallibly interpret any portion of the Bible is excellent evidence that it would be pointless for God to make the work itself inerrant or infallible in any way. Although I can think of very good reasons men would invent the idea of infallibility or inerrancy…
2) God’s Word is insufficient because other tools must be used or invented to interpret it. Think commentaries, archaeology, Greek and Hebrew language studies, etc. If one cannot properly understand what God said unless they study these things, then God’s Word is insufficient. Enough said.
3) God’s Word is incomplete because a portion of New Testament theology comes from books that are not included in the canon. Think Jude and the Book of Enoch or the Assumption of Moses. That’s right, Jude directly quotes the Book of Enoch. If the Book of Enoch is not inspired, why does Jude quote it as if it were? If it is inspired, why is it not in the canon? That’s just one example.
4) God’s Word is unclear because believers can still not agree on the proper interpretations. Enough said.
5) God’s Word is out of date (not timeless) because interpretation is dependent on recent (last couple hundred years) archaeological, historical, and language discoveries. Let’s say Bob the Archaeologist discovers a cool thing about a Greek word because of tablet he digs up. Let’s also say this discovery sheds light on the interpretation of a Bible passage. Does this mean that nobody had the right interpretation in the last thousand or more years until that discovery was made? If so, does this not mean God’s Word is no longer up to date? Why do people keep making new translations (like The Message) if God’s Word is timeless? What about all the countless proper interpretations discovered in the last two hundred years? Why is God only now revealing the proper interpretation (because of human discoveries) and He let everyone else in history just live without it? If they did not need the proper interpretation, why the hell do we?
6) God’s Word is inconsistent because the methods used to interpret it change over time. It is pretty obvious that the New Testament believers had far lower standards of interpretation than we do today. If they interpret that way, why can’t we? If we can’t interpret that way, why do we let them get away with it? Because they were inspired? How can it be inspired if they broke interpretive rules? If they did follow the rules, why do we not follow those same rules today?
7) God’s Word is relative and not absolute because interpretation depends on the reader. People interpret the Bible through the things they already know. This means every interpretation of the Bible is relative to the individual doing the interpreting. If every interpretation is relative to the individual, what is the point of saying God is communicating a single message? If his message depends on the reader, then every interpretation is valid.
Cross posted from my blog.
P.S. So I was just editing this post and noticed something interesting. I just noticed that almost every point I am making is itself the result of a series of important questions. I wish Christians would fearlessly ask more questions and give fewer dogmatic assertions. If people of all faiths were humble and courageous enough to do this, the world would be a better place.