Nevertheless, there are some Christians today who make the argument that the six “days” of Genesis 1 must always mean “24-hours” each. Let me say up front that I stand with Saint Augustine on this one, that the exact meaning of the six “days” of Genesis is difficult to determine. Are they 24-hour periods or could they simply be long, indeterminate lengths of time? Saint Augustine did not know for sure, and neither do I. Saint Augustine was a lot smarter than I am, and he lived a long time before me, so I will put my lot in with him.
However, I do get greatly concerned when some insist that their view of a “24-hour” day is the only faithful way of reading the six “days” of Biblical Creation. This implies that the “24-hour” day view should be some test for Christian orthodoxy. Anything that wavers from this is a compromise of Biblical authority. Thankfully, not everyone in the “Young Earth Creationist” camp takes this kind of rigid approach. But for those who do, this way of thinking is very harmful to the unity and testimony of the Body of Christ. So I would like to tackle one of the primary arguments used to defend this position, acknowledging that not everyone goes to such extremes with it.
But before I launch into that, it might be helpful to view the latest “Table Talk” session I had with our lead pastor, Travis Simone, during our Summer Bible Study series on Genesis 1-11. Notice how Travis makes the point that getting caught up in the details of how God created the world takes our focus away from the more important details pertinent to the Gospel. It is so easy to stumble over things like the exact meaning of”days,” that miss the main point of Genesis 1, namely that the God of the Bible is the Creator and that we as humans are created in His image:
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Have you ever been blindsided by a hostile comment about your faith? For whatever reasons, someone has a chip on their shoulder about Christians. Maybe you weren’t even talking about anything spiritual, and they let go a pejorative that hits you like ice water in the face. If they’re angry and intelligent, you might hear a diatribe that is well articulated and seems to challenge your Christian worldview in a really disturbing way.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, welcome to the real world. Skepticism is nothing new.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11,12 (NKJV)
Being on the receiving end of mocking and ridicule is bad enough, but how do you respond to the underlying challenge?
Personal discipleship is more than a process—it’s a lane to drive in when your faith is challenged. One of the (many) reasons that ice water in the face feels so cold is that we are poorly prepared to graciously address the underlying objections. Not just poorly prepared in terms of having a pithy response, but poorly prepared to engage in a manner that is gentle and respectful. Bobby Conway says the purpose of apologetics is to remove barriers to the Christian faith. Apologetics is not about winning arguments. Got it. But we have little chance of presenting Christ in a favorable light if we don’t know where people are coming from—emotionally and intellectually.
“I learned a lot from all skeptics. I tell my students that I spend most of my time studying and teaching what I don’t believe, namely the history of philosophy, and I’m writing a book on it now, The History of Philosophy From a Christian Point of View. You have to have a knowledge of what’s going on, that’s the bread and butter, that’s the standing on the shoulders of giants. As someone said, ‘You can learn more from the error of a great mind than you can the truths of a small mind.’ Because, the error of a great mind is a significant error, and you learn a lot from significant errors. Furthermore, I would encourage reading atheists because when I see the fallacies, the flimsy grounds upon which they base their belief, it encourages me in my own faith. So, I don’t read Streams in the Desert, or Daily Bread for devotion, I read atheists. Because they’re encouraging Nietzsche, and Freud, and Fromm, and Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer, and all the great atheists. Because as I read them, I strengthen my own faith, I see how to answer the fallacies in their writings, and I’m able to do what the Bible tells me—to destroy arguments and every proud obstacle against the knowledge of God and bring every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”
Christians believe that the Bible is the inspiredword of God. In this post—the second in our series entitled “How We Got the Bible“—we will explore what biblical inspiration really entails (and what it does not entail). The Bible itself claims to be the inspired, special revelation of the one true God.
The Bible has no peers when it comes to the number and quality of surviving ancient manuscripts. (Infographic credit: Mark Berry, http://visualunit.me/)
When researching for this series I was primarily interested in focusing on how the biblical canon was developed—specifically how did we end up with the 66 books that comprise the Bible, what about the Apocrypha, why not other books, and so on. Biblical canon is an extremely interesting topic, but it rightfully fits in the context of a larger question: How did we get the Bible? (We’ll get to the topic of biblical canon in forthcoming posts in this series—and by the way, there are lots of interesting, new publications on canonicity.)
Whether you are died-in-the-wool biblicist or a Christian neophyte, it’s difficult to fully appreciate the implications of our understanding (or denial) of the inspiration of the Bible. Not just in terms of heaven or hell as an end result, but whether we can trust the Scripture. I just returned from the National Conference on Christian Apologetics, which included some strong rhetoric about the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible (and a fantastic session on the biblical canon). Clarke attended most of the same sessions, so I won’t turn this series into a discussion about inerrancy. He will no doubt address many of the nuances and implications of the “battle for the Bible” in future posts. But consider these two questions:
Is it even reasonable that an all-powerful and perfect God would inspire the writers of the Bible to produce a text containing errors?
If God did not inspire the writing of the Bible, isn’t it just the product of human writers, and if that is the case why should we submit to its authority, teaching, and claims?
There are lots of corollary questions, and your answers would reveal a great deal about your understanding of the Christian faith. But for now let’s take a cue from Geisler and Nix and start with the topic of biblical inspiration.
“We should not imagine a committee of church fathers with a large pile of books and these five guiding principles before them when we speak of the process of canonization. No ecumenical committee was commissioned to canonize the Bible.”
Our church’s Statement of Faith is pretty minimal. We only list eight core beliefs, the second of which states that we believe “in the inspiration of all the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit, and that they are the final authority for our faith and practice.”
“…final authority for our faith and practice?” Really?!
Our founders didn’t draft up this idea—it is delineated in the historic confessions of the Christian church. Consider the absolute implications of this statement. It means the Bible contains the foundations for Christian faith and practice, and that we are bound to it in all matters. We don’t get to impart our personal, alternative views. We don’t get to cherry pick which parts we like or which parts we would write differently. We don’t get to interpret what it says in ways that are contradictory to it. When we disagree with someone else’s view or interpretation, we submit to the final authority of the Bible. No appeals. We believe the Bible comprises God’s special revelation to us.
If you’ve been reading Veracity for any length of time, you know that we are big on personal discipleship—which we define as the process in which a believer or seeker takes personal responsibility for investigating the claims and content of the Bible. Personal Discipleship is based on the Bible.
Exactly how did we get the Bible?
Welcome to our latest Veracity series. If you’re like me or Salvador Dali you may have developed some loose derivative notions such as:
God told a select group of human authors what to write,
Their writings were evaluated by committees of men in silly hats,
These ecumenical councils voted on which writings would be in “the Bible,” and
Later ecumenical councils clarified and solidified the final selection (and some modified it).
In fact, if you read what Wikipedia has to say about Ecumenical Councils it sounds like a pretty cut-and-dried historical process. But is that all there is to it? For that matter are these notions even correct? Are we to live our lives under the complete authority of documents that were assembled by ancient and medieval committees? How do we know that the Bible we hold in our hands today is what God intended for us to have? What if it was corrupted in its translations or transmission? How do we know that we have the right books, and why do we disagree along denominational lines about what should be included in the ‘Holy’ Bible?
In preparing for this series I read a lot of texts that come at these questions from a canonical perspective (focusing on how the official list of biblical texts was created and adopted). I must confess, that was originally my interest as well. But Drs. Norman Geisler and William Nix have a more comprehensive, full-orbed understanding, which they explain in From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible. So let’s dig in and see what these and other scholars have to bring to our understanding of how we got the Bible.
Over the course of this series we will look at the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translation of the Bible. But before we dive into the topic of inspiration here’s a Mini Bible College audio clip from Dick Woodward to give us the big picture.
Dick did a masterful job summarizing the basics for us, and Geisler and Nix will delve more deeply into the details (particularly when we get to the process of canonization). We’ll go slowly and see what we can learn about the book that comprises the authoritative basis for our Christian faith and practice.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
If you want suggestions about how to keep your devotional life fresh, try apologetics. Specifically, try attending an apologetics conference. I just returned from the 2013 National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, North Carolina, and thoroughly enjoyed thinking and dialoguing at high levels of reasoning for two days. As an active blogger, I really don’t have issues with my spiritual life becoming stale, but I have to admit it was a truly uplifting experience.
Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Ken Petzinger (a physicist). Our rocket scientist friend did not wish to contribute to my wife’s embarrassment by posing with us.
I was travelling with some wonderful people, including a rocket scientist (no kidding), a physicist, a lawyer, and a librarian (who is also an interpretive dancer). We had some conversations; wish you could have been there with us.
For whatever reasons there was a doubling of registrations (to 2,000) from the prior year, so we stopped by Thursday evening to see if we could register before the crowd on Friday morning. We ran into Dr. Norman Geisler roaming the halls, and he graciously agreed to pose for a photo. After we parted I thought of all the things I should have said to him. You know, like: thanks for architecting the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and thanks for several books that have shaped my thinking (like Making Sense of Bible Difficulties and From God to Us, How We Got our Bible). Continue reading