What the Bible Is–And Is Not

Today, we begin a new series on the character of the Bible. A number of topics will be on what the Bible is not, but this article is about What the Bible Is.

We must first realize that our perspective of the Bible heavily influences what we think the Bible is—and is not. Here are four such perspectives:

  1. The Bible is factual and true in everything it says
  2. The Bible claims to be factual in everything it says—but it is a fraud
  3. The Bible is not factual—it expresses symbolic truth
  4. The Bible contains both factual and symbolic truth—but not everything is true

My perspective is closer to #4—the Bible does contain some factual truth and some symbolic truth, however the symbolic truth is not some free-flowing interpretation but is tied solidly to the context. This perspective also acknowledges that some things in the Bible are not true at all.

What other perspectives can you think of?

Bible - Pixabay4

From Pixabay

If the Bible Isn’t Inerrant then Why Bother with It?

Millions of conservative believers claim the Bible is inerrant, which is a form of Perspective #1. They often view each verse, phrase, or snippet of a phrase as a revealed truth from God. Even though they may disagree with each other on what the truth is, the specific words of the Bible guide their beliefs, and all parts of the Bible are equally valid.

This certainty is based on the assumption that God revealed truth to the biblical writers or even directed the authors’ very words. That would give me great confidence, too, except that the assumption is misguided. The Bible was not written by God but by humans; and humans are not inerrant.

A reader once asked me a very good question: “If ‘inerrant’ is defined as literally true and perfect, and if the Bible isn’t an inerrant document, then what is its purpose for Christians today?”

I can’t speak for other believers, but I can say that the Bible is of great importance to me. First, the New Testament tells us of the teachings and actions of Jesus, written from the memories of his earliest followers; this in itself is sufficient reason for me. Secondly, the Old Testament helps us understand the culture and background within which Jesus lived and taught.

The Old Testament as a Collection of National Literature

The Old Testament is a collection of national literature like any other national literature. In an American Literature text, we read many inspiring stories of leaders, heroes, and thinkers. Along with that are the entertaining stories of Mark Twain and the wisdom sayings of Ben Franklin. The awesome Declaration of Independence is also included.

All these works are human and none is inerrant, and yet they are of great value. We might even disagree with some of them, but why would we reject the entire collection just because it is not inerrant?

The Old Testament national collection of literature was written by people who felt strongly about God and who wrote from the limitations of their era, culture, and understanding. However, even though much of the historical narrative is questionable, there is much real merit in parts of the Old Testament.

Some of the prophets are inspiring as they talk of God’s interest in the poor and marginalized. Some of the poetry of the Psalms warms the heart as good poetry often does. Then there is the deep philosophical reflection on why bad things happen to good people in Job. And there is much more.

The Old Testament also gives us insight into the Jewish thinking of Jesus’ day so that we can better understand his interactions with his contemporaries–it gives us conceptual background. I am glad we have the Old Testament, even though it is not an inerrant document to instruct us on details of correct doctrine and behavior.

The New Testament as a Response to the Message of Jesus

The New Testament is far more valuable to me. Jesus came to Judea preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He impacted his listeners with both his teaching and his behavior. Yet he didn’t write down a single thing! But his earliest followers did share what they heard and observed from Jesus. They preached about Jesus’ words and actions.

The Gospels were written from the memories of Jesus’ earliest followers who were strongly impacted by him. They might not have quoted Jesus word-for-word or captured the exact details of his life, but the personality and character of Jesus in the four Gospels are remarkably consistent. We learn genuine information about Jesus from the Gospels—and it is compelling.

The rest of the New Testament gives us insight into how the teachings and example of Jesus played out among his followers after his resurrection and departure. We listen in as they share the good news with others, deal with the practical issues of the new community, and wrestle with the significance of who Jesus was and how it continued to impact them. This helps us immensely in our own issues and questions. We would be at a very sad loss without this information.

So while neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament is the inerrant message of truth from God, we would not have any grasp of Jesus or his culture without them. But we should not claim more for the Bible than is the case. We have discussed the basics of what the Bible is; next time we will discuss the first thing that the Bible is not.

Other articles in this series: What the Bible is Not
What the Bible Is–And Is Not
The Bible is not Magically Inerrant: Exposing Inerrancy Proof-Texts
The Bible is not a Rule Book: Overcoming Legalism
The Bible is not a Promise Book: Exploring a Misguided Approach to the Bible
The Bible is not an Encyclopedia of Life: Demise of a Bible Answer Man
The Bible is not a Magic Talisman: Biblical Power, Incantations, and Bibliomancy
The Bible is not Open to Narcigesis: Thinking the Bible is Written to You

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75 Responses to What the Bible Is–And Is Not

  1. An Old Testament professor at seminary told a story in class about a time when he was growing up in an area of the country with many fundamentalists who took the Bible literally. They would always ask him if he took the Bible literally. He started answering them this way: “No, but I try to take it seriously.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Laced Up, I really like this answer! Some do imply that we cannot take the Bible seriously if we don’t take it literally. But I agree that we SHOULD take it seriously, and to do that we must work to understand it as well as we can. Using the lazier, shallow assumptions of reading the Bible literally or inerrantly do not do that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sheila0405 says:

    I think #2 is too harsh. I’d say the Bible makes factual claims, but it contains errors. “Fraud” implies knowingly deceiving another. The writers of the Bible believed what they wrote, even if they were incorrect. Some atheists mock the Bible & overlook its literary value. I’m not in that camp. The Psalms especially capture the gritty realities in life. And the prose of the KJV is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Sheila, I think #2 is too harsh as well, and I agree that the biblical authors did not intend fraud. But this is what some people believe about the Bible and even about the stories of Jesus. As you say, there are a lot of excellent passage in the Old Testament, like some of the Psalms.

      I think some atheists attack the Bible only from the viewpoint of the Bible being true in an inerrant way. They mock and dismiss the Bible without understanding what it really is. But I know that not all atheists are like that.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, the question of intent is important, because if some the OT writers were deliberately trying to influence thinking among the Jewish people by the use of stories that they knew were fiction, then they were perpetrating a fraud. They would only be innocent of fraud if they transmitted stories that they themselves believed were true.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          This is a good point, Chas. I think there are a number of inspiring stories (to the Jews) that are fiction but were taken as historical like, perhaps, Esther and the Daniel stories. And there were also reflective texts written as stories such as the creation accounts, Job, and Jonah. I doubt that the author’s meant to deceive; stories are a good way to convey ideas.

          In the case of the history of Israel, I think there is a lot of exaggeration regarding the exodus and the conquest of the Canaanites that is not supported by archaeology. And there was also an agenda to exalt the Davidic kingdom. But these are perhaps more about bragging and showing off to other nations than outright lies; this can be seen in most national heroic literatures.

          The shame of this is that many of today’s believers consider every word of these stories as absolutely true and historic and then go on to find specific instruction in these ‘words of God’ for us today. Very shallow and misguided in my opinion.

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  3. robstanback says:

    Based on the scientific method, one only needs to find one counterexample in order to prove a theory wrong. One who espouses inerrancy creates many atheists.

    It was only when I learned that the Bible and its stories sometimes could be interpreted symbolically, or viewed as true only in the context of when they were written – only then could I embrace its beauty, wisdom, and mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Well said, Robstanback! Indeed it only takes one example to prove the theory of inerrancy wrong. Yet, inerrantists go to great lengths to prove that discrepancies (errors) pointed out by others are not discrepancies at all!

      I used to have about eight different books explaining away ‘discrepancies’ in the Bible, but I now have only two of the least bizarre ones. Even so, the explanations of ‘apparent discrepancies’ are sometimes very thin or outright unbelievable. But for inerrantists, these discrepancies cannot exist because, as you say, even one error brings ruin to inerrancy.

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  4. Garth says:

    Having gone through some significant changes over the last 14 years I have to say my view has changed dramatically. I have sought truth and now am of the opinion that the gospels are very sound, both Bart Ehrmans book ‘Did Jesus Exist’ and Brant Petres book ‘The case for Jesus’ really helped with this. The point is that if we believe this much (the gospels), Jesus said that he was leaving and the comforter was coming and would teach us ‘All things’. The fact that Pauls letters and the other writings have been made into the ‘Word of God’ is in my opinion idolatry. Sure they are interesting to understand more about the people but they do move away from the ‘Commands of Jesus’ which will set us free. When we elevate them to Word Status we are placing something between God and us that was never intended to be there. I also wouldn’t call the bible fraud. I just believe it is mans writings about his struggle to know this infinite God that is more than our finite minds could ever really comprehend. Yes we can learn from it and enjoy its expression of God but Jesus said that we would ‘know the truth and be free’. This word ‘know’ is the same word used to talk about sex between a husband and wife, the statement he is making then is talking about a very real relationship not head knowledge or intellect which is what we get from a book. One of the The biggest dangers facing not only the church but the world today is that we now take guidance from the book not a relationship with the Holy Spirit. A book can be twisted so we believe we have a right to kill gay people, abortionist or anyone that does not fit our doctrine. We twist the book to suit ourselves and godly morals go out the door. We no longer see God as an invisible presence who is always with us we see him as a list of does and don’ts contained in a book that is very easy to twist and pervert to suit our own cognitive dissonance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Garth, you say a lot of good stuff here. I particularly like what you say about Paul being considered the word of God. His writings were letters written to various congregations to address specific situations there. He was not writing to us. And his opinions, while worth considering, are not instructions from God on how we must believe and act. I think If Paul were to come to us today, he would be horrified to learn that his letters are considered the word of God.

      You are right that the Bible is often twisted to hurt people, and it is also used to create a long list of do’s and don’ts; these are very misguided ways to use the Bible. By the way, I highly recommend Ehrmans’s book ‘Did Jesus Exist’.

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  5. cmgatlin53 says:

    I think I’ve mentioned before the Anglican approach to the Bible, as e employed by Article VI in the Articles of Religion found in the Book of Common Prayer: “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
    My view is that everything in the Bible is true, but some is symbolic, or metaphorical, or nonhistorical truth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garth says:

      Can you please explain to me why you think the bible is entitled to the term ‘Holy Scripture’. It is something I have been trying to understand for the last couple of years and cant see why it is so other than instigated by man. If something is Holy and therefor consecrated to God or from God then surely it has to be 100% accurate? Also can you explain how something can be recorded as historical yet seems to be incorrect can be deemed to be non-historical truth, I am a bit confused by this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Garth, I am completely in agreement with you. The Bible contains contradictions, so how could it be from God, since God is perfect.

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      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Garth, I also have a sensitivity to the term ‘Holy Scriptures’. It seems to imply that the Bible is more than it is. In fact, I rarely use the term ‘scripture’ at all, even though it only means ‘writing’, for the same reason; it falsely elevates the text. I usually say ‘biblical passage’ or something like that.

        I know it is a psychological thing, but ‘scripture’ has a lot of influence on how we think about the Bible. I also avoid the term ‘the bible says’, as the ‘Bible’ never says anything. It is ‘Paul says’, or ‘Isaiah says’, or ‘the author says’. I think we are of similar thoughts here.

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        • Alan Christensen says:

          Interesting that you avoid the word “scripture”. I prefer “scripture” or “the scriptures” to “the Bible” these days because to me the phrase “the Bible [says]” implies that it is a single book that speaks with one voice (which is of course God’s voice) rather than a collection of writings in which we hear many voices (including, I believe, God’s). I think the greatest disservice we have done to the scriptures may have been to collect them all in one volume. Let’s go back to scrolls!

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Alan, I guess the use of terms is an individual choice as we try to get away from the idea of a Bible that is from God rather than individual writings from many voices, as you mention. I agree with you that the widespread understanding that the Bible is a single book is very misguided and leads to seriously bad consequences.

            I would love to go back to individual scrolls!

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      • cmgatlin53 says:

        The people who framed the Articles of Religion believed that the writers of the scriptures were inspired by God and that those writings were thus holy. For them, however, inspiration meant neither dictation of actual words, nor miraculous avoidance of human errors by the writers. Inspiration in this earlier meaning meant the God breathing his Spirit in to guide them and preserve them from error. Error and mistakes are two different things. To err is to wander from the path. The Bible doesn’t teach any error, in that view (which I share). But any two people recalling a mutual event will usually recall things differently, often making mistakes of recollection, like confusing chronology or sequence of events. Many of the so-called errors in the Bible are trivial inconsistencies. Others are only problems if we read the Bible expecting perfection because we don’t really understand inspiration, conceiving it really more like dictation.
        So that’s how I would justify continuing to refer to those writings as the Holy Bible or the Holy Scriptures.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          You acknowledge that the Bible is not perfect, then we need to know which parts are true and which are not, otherwise we cannot rely on it in any way. Only God knows which are true and which are not, so we need to rely on Him to show us what we are to understand from our reading of the Bible.

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      • cmgatlin53 says:

        As far as nonhistorical but true, I’d say there are plenty of examples in secular and scared stories that fit this description. Travis very likely didn’t draw a line in the sand at the Alamo, but that story encapsulates exactly the spirit of what all his actions did. So true to the Alamo’s significance and meaning, but nonhistorical if the scholars who think it didn’t happen are right (and not all scholars disbelieve that it happened). Easy candidates for this description would be the OT stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt, and some of the military accounts. Each of these teaches us some truth about man’s relationship to God and other men and women, but none of them are historical the way the Gospels and Acts are historical. (I know some who doubt those as well, but I find their arguments unconvincing.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chuck, I heartily agree with much of what you say in these two additional comments, and I particularly like your statement: “Many of the so-called errors in the Bible are trivial inconsistencies. Others are only problems if we read the Bible expecting perfection.” But I think your view of the inspiration of the Bible might be higher than my view.

          I don’t disparage the use by others of the term, Holy Scripture; but I can’t use it because of the implications it carries in the minds of so many people.

          You also make a good point about how we can derive meaning from biblical stories, but I am uncomfortable saying that they ‘teach’ us. We can learn from them, but I don’t think they are lessons from God.

          I always like your comments because they obviously come from your considered engagement with the issues rather than being ”tradition’ passed along from someone else.

          Liked by 1 person

          • sheila0405 says:

            I agree. I do, out of respect, use the term “sacred texts” when I engage devout believers. To disregard a person’s deeply held reverence for those texts can erect a barrier to discourse. If someone “threatens” me with Divine judgment, then all bets are off.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Garth says:

          When I looked into what you are talking of here several years ago my understanding of the bible started to change. Firstly I am not as convinced of the spiritual intent of those that compiled the cannon of scripture. Secondly there is no bible support for your belief that it is inspired. Sure Paul Mentions it in Timothy 3 but based on what I learnt from the book ‘How to read the bible for all its worth’ we have to conclude that when this was written in AD65 most of the other books of the new testament were not written and Paul never called his writings (Luke the physicians writings really) scripture he called them letters. The only conclusion is that Paul was referring to the Torah or possibly at a stretch the old testament so this statement does not apply to all or probably any of the new testament. The other point is the statement itself is made by either Paul or Luke shortly after Pauls death so was by a man. To use it as an authority that the bible is inspired is not only unwise it offers up an argument based totally on circular reasoning which is very week and in my opinion without merit.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Garth says:

          No one I know is basing their faith and life’s work around whether travis drew a line in the sand at the Alamo. Mythos is not truth, sure it might have a good moral like a parable but that does not make it true. When something is recorded as history and then found to be wrong and we proclaim it as non historical truth surely we are only trying to support our own dependence on something that has been proven to be falible and not infinite or not God. Over a two census period in the USA over 50million people left the church. One of the core reasons is the disparity between the bible and history. When we try to protect the bible with terms like ‘non historical truth’ we are actually hiding from the truth ourselves. If we came clean and said ‘actually the bible is not the word of god’ and sought the answers from the comforter the church may have seen its way through this burgeoning scientific revival but as it stands I cant see anything but decay as they hold on to their man based beliefs. I read recently an article by a young coloured paster. She said how almost all coloured youth she new were leaving the church, but when she spoke of the bible, she also believed in its divinity (thats what it is when you say it is the word of God’. I couldn’t help but think that if she got honest with herself and truly established her faith in a relationship with the comforter she may have been able to help more people instead of forcing this book on them. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in its merits and the wonderful things it talks about but first and foremost it is just a book and our relationship cant be with the book, it must be with the comforter.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            One of the most significant factors in declining church attendance is that the Good News is not being preached enough.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Garth, I think you are responding to Chuck’s (CMGatlin) comment, but let me say that I do not think the Bible is ‘inspired’ either–at least in the way most people understand it to be inspired.

            Some of the writer’s might have been inspired to some extent, just as some writers today are inspired. I also think many biblical passages are inspiring to me, as well as to other people. But I don’t think the writings of the Bible are inspired or made authoritative by God.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Chuck, I think Article VI is a good statement. Thanks for sharing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Chas says:

    Tim, I think your final paragraph sums up our position very well. We would not have known about Jesus without the Bible. Although He did not contribute to its writing, either by dictating it directly, or through inspiration, (otherwise it would be inerrant) He has nevertheless used it as His means of carrying forward a promise of relationship with Him. Once we have come into relationship with Him, He can guide us in our thinking, if we are willing. That guidance might include giving us the understanding that He wants us to have through interpretation of the Bible, or by other means.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes, my relationship is with Jesus–not the Bible.

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      • Garth says:

        I know I might be moving away from any consensus with this statement but it is what I see in the gospels. Jesus said that he was leaving and the comforter was coming. The comforter would not only teach us all things it would remind us of the commands of Jesus. That means no longer did we need to have a relationship with Jesus, we now need to have a relationship with the comforter. I will acknowledge that the comforter and Jesus may very well be exactly the same thing in different forms however based on the commands and teaching of Jesus, all we need now is a full and surrendered relationship with the comforter. If you are interested in how this happend for me my book ‘The prayer of Garth’ is on amazon or in hardback at a lot of stores.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          Garth, I am with you. My only difference is cosmetic, because I think that the Comforter is God Himself. It is how we experience our relationship with Him.

          Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Garth, if this is so then how do we identify the comforter? How do we build a relationship with the comforter? How do we receive and act upon the leading of the comforter?

          I am serious about these questions.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, from my experience with others, I suspect that many people are hearing from God without realizing it. Recently, a friend said that she could not tell if what she was hearing was from God, or whether it was her herself. The advice was a) to ask God to make His communications with her clearer, and b) meanwhile, to do what she was hearing, on the grounds that her views and God’s might well be in line.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I like your answer. It is not that I don’t think I am being led by the Spirit, but it is not detectable. I believe the Spirit leads us in subtle ways rather than spectacular ones.

            As you know, I am leery of those who claim to be led by the Spirit, or that God has given them a message, because it is easy for someone to understand their own though process as the voice of God or the Holy Spirit. It sometimes gives people a false sense of importance, privilege, or power. I am not interested in that.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, the time that you really know it is from God is when you are asked to do something you wouldn’t think of doing yourself.

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  7. Garth says:

    We identify the comforter in two ways. Firstly He will declare the end from the begining, ie will be truly prophetic, no lies or made up stuff, very real and truthful. Also anything we hear from the comforter will line up with what Jesus taught (so the gospels are important).

    Secondly Jesus said that we are now friends if we obey his commandments and he will tell us what he knows, but he passed on that mantel to the comforter because the comforter will bring to remembrance to the words of Jesus. On top of that Jesus said that he did nothing without seeing the father do it first so we have here a direct link via the comforter to God himself (like chas above I believe they are one and the same), not a link to a book, teaching, doctrine or former manifestation for that matter, it is all about one thing and that is a very real and personal relationship with God of our time and Jesus said that he was out of here and the comforter would be here instead. A relationship with Jesus is actually not possible other than us worshiping and adoring him as he has already ascended. I fully accept that the comforter and Jesus may be the same thing, although Jesus did not say that but if we obey what he said our relationship is now between us and the comforter, anything else is historical and not alive today. Jesus cant give us prophetic insight, he said himself he was leaving. Why would god send a comforter then expect us to keep following his old manifestation? If this was the case we might all be worshiping any bush that was on fire or hand shadows on the wall. It is imperitave that if we want a real and living relationship with God it has to be where he is and Jesus is very clear that our relationship has to be with the comforter. For to long we have tagged on ‘in Jesus name’ at the end of our prayers thinking this was the way to truth but it is of no effect. ‘In Jesus name’ means according to his will, which is the will of God, which is now manifest via the leadership of the comforter.

    Thirdly, I learnt through a near death experience and an almost total loss of everything I held dear that the only way to the comforter is by complete and total surrender, anything else, any other way, any other perceived reality or doctrine just stops him working in our lives. I now know it is not my job to work out what God wants of me, if I am surrendered he makes it very clear what is required. I am more free than I have ever been but in less control of my own life. All god expects of me is to love him and love my neighbour (I know this is fairly broad but it is the basic intent of the gospels). So when I get out of bed in the morning I surrender my day to God then I do what I can do and that is love my wife, love my family, be a good employer, be a good friend and help those who need my help when ever I can. There is no super spiritual journey it is about being present now and loving life. Then in the most amazing and supernatural ways god steps in, usually at the most unexpected times and we see the end from the beginning as something incredible happens. I have seen it many times but if it never happens again then so be it. I am surrendered to His will and am happy that he will speak if I need to know something.

    I am not saying this as a sales pitch but I love your qeustions and I have had to face those questions in the last 14 years. If you want to know why I had to face them please have a read of my book on kindle called ‘The prayer of Garth’ it will help you understand what I mean and how i got to where I am today.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Garth, you have a very interesting and unique perspective, and I won’t contest it.

      I became Pentecostal as an adult and fully participated in the movement for about 25 years. So I am familiar with how many people understand the Spirit works. I spoke in tongues and gave interpretations. I believe in the leading of the Spirit, but I now think the Spirit leads us in subtle ways rather than detectable ones.

      I am leery of those who claim to be led by the Spirit, or that God has given them a message, because it is easy for someone to misunderstand their own thought process as the voice the Spirit. It sometimes gives people a false sense of importance, privilege, or power. I am not interested in that.

      Jesus is the one I follow in his teachings and example; I think his person and work are central. I don’t disparage those who focus on a detectable leading of the Spirit, but I make no such claims. I assume I am led by the Spirit, but in subtle ways.

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      • Garth says:

        Jesus was a signpost who left. There can be no question of this as he said it himself. He showed us that there was a greater journey and he said how that journey would take place. A comforter would teach you ‘all things’ and if we forget anything the sign said that very same comforter would remind us of those things that were displayed by the sign. Sadly a lot of people get down the road and because the challenge to surrender everything to that comforter appears to hard or even impossible they go back and re read the sign. But the sign will never help them complete the journey, they claim to have faith but their faith is in the written words on the sign which were said 2000 years ago because they can physically see and touch it every day. However the sign itself taught that true faith is not this it is in listening to the one the sign pointed to. Sure many people who struggle to let go will make up their own version of what the comforter is saying but ultimately the comforter is very personal. I have never had him speak about what he wants other to do to me. He only ever deals with me.

        Jesus never said I must go so the Comforter is coming to teach Paul and Peter and Luke and James etc to pass it on to Luke to write it down so you will know all things. Either the comforter teaches us ‘all things’ or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t whose fault is that, is it the comforters fault or is it our fault? Jesus was the word in flesh, is that flesh still here? No it is not so the Word in flesh has gone, but where to? Sadly most see that the Word is now the bible but Jesus told us and we have ignored it. Just because the pentecostal church has perverted this into some huge hype that they try and teach in schools and seminars should not distract us from walking in the truth as Jesus taught it. Stop measuring God by looking at others, there are crackpots everywhere who claim to follow the spirit, this does not make it wrong or right, they are still a crackpot but hopefully one day they will surrender to it and be free.

        It comes down to this, you believe what Jesus said or you don’t. Most people struggle with this and choose to follow him rather than follow where he lead us to. I know man twists everything, in fact I think about 18 of the candidates from this presidential election stated that God told them to run and they have fallen by the way side, this makes God look more a liar than the bible. However once again it is man deceiving. Does this mean it is wrong to listen to the comforter for all things? Definitely not because without doing this you will never truly know freedom because Jesus stated if you obey my commands, one of the main ones being to Love the Lord but to me second is to follow the comforter which is actually the same as the first. So in looking back to the sign we are in disobedience and seek a freedom we can never find because that freedom has moved on and our lack of faith stops us from ever testing if it be so.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Garth, you have a very unusual perspective on Jesus; I don’t think I have encountered it elsewhere. I have no need to argue about such things. I agree with you that the Word is not the Bible, but I don’t see that we should abandon following Jesus or that Jesus was just a sign.

          Usually I don’t use proof-text language, but you have done so in saying that, “A comforter would teach you ‘all things’ and if we forget anything the sign said that very same comforter would remind us of those things that were displayed by the sign.” But it seems that your theory conflicts with the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:20 which say, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

          Again, I have no wish to argue the point, but I don’t find your conclusion persuasive.

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          • Garth says:

            Firstly let me say that in no way is this an argument. I am interested in all perspectives, especially those that are different to mine. I love discovering error as it always leads to growth. I have tried to eliminate bias from my life so listen to atheist agnostic, christian and others and do enjoy having my thoughts challenged.

            The quote from Matthew is interesting for several reasons. Firstly I think it is one of the main text that link Jesus and the Comforter as one and the same, even though he never came out and said it. Secondly he uses a statement that I think is often misunderstood. It certainly was by me and that is ‘in my name’. What does this really mean, I think it deserves some critical analysis. He states ‘ask anything in my name and it will be given you’. Yet how often do we see people ask for things that never come to pass. In no way does this scripture deter from anything I have told you, in fact it expands it if anything.

            I never said that we must abandon Jesus, in fact I said that I believed he is God. What I said is that in looking back to Jesus we are looking at the word in flesh but things changed. When Jesus said that he fulfilled all the law, from that time they had to follow him to see God manifest. Surely he was saying that you don’t need to look back to the law to be saved you need to look to his commandments and of course him. The point being that the Jews that failed to do so missed God, even though they were worshiping God as they new him. Whether we like it or not Jesus taught us that he was leaving. In John 14 12-18 Jesus says that he is going to the father, but he states that he will send the comforter.

            So Jesus states that he fulfilled the law which implies completion however it was not enough because if this was the case there would not be a need for a comforter to teach us ‘all things as he said in 14:26 because he had already done everything. But there was still a need for teaching hense the promise of a comforter.

            So we know this, Jesus was all they needed when he was the word in flesh manifest.
            We know that Jesus has left to go back to the father.
            We know that the comforter has come.
            We know that the comforter will teach us not only all things but will remind us of the things we need that Jesus said as well.
            We also know that Jesus will be with us when we gather in His name. So if Jesus has gone as he stated he must have come back however it is not in flesh as we cant see him it therefore must be in spirit form, what spirit form are we to be surrendered to? The comforter, this scripture would point to that comforter being Jesus so they are probably one and the same. Is however that relevant to who we learn all things from, do we need to know its Jesus? I don’t think so as Jesus never said it so its not one of his commands. What he said was that the comforter will teach us all things.

            You disagree with me because you choose not to accept what I say as truth, therefore you are not lead by me. You choose to look at Jesus instead (probably a good thing). However Jesus has told us that the comforter is to teach us all things and bring his words to remembrance so his instruction is actually not able to be questioned it is in fact the only way now.

            To say the spirit only influences small things is actually totally contrary to what Jesus said. To me ‘all things’ is actually fairly cut and dry. I know the supernatural is a tough subject but it is what Jesus said. All things is all things.

            For me it comes down to this. Do we know where God is manifest now? It was imperative when Jesus was here in flesh that they recognised him as he fulfilled everything for them. However based on what he said things were changing and God was once again going to manifest in a different form. What happened when the Jews did not recognise the change when Jesus came? They missed the very manifestation of God and walked away from God. My point is this, when we look to Jesus in flesh we miss the present manifestation of God. The law of Moses and the levites stopped the religious from seeing God. I think the law of the bible and the elevation of it to Word status stops us from seeing God. I also think focusing on Jesus rather than what he said does the same thing. It is no longer about Jesus it is about two things, the commands of Jesus and the leadership of the Holy Spirit anything else is for another time.

            I am more God without the baggage than Jesus without the baggage but I do really appreciate what you do so keep up the good work.

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          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Hi Garth. Thanks for expressing your view in more detail. I am glad you find that perspective useful to you. I still don’t see the purpose of seeing Jesus differently than I already do; I follow his teachings, just as you say we should: “I also think focusing on Jesus rather than what he said does the same thing.” But I also follow his example, which is consistent with his teaching–and is even part of his teaching.

            I think perhaps we have mostly a semantic difference, though it seems you make a distinction between what Jesus says and what the comforter is saying to us, and you reduce Jesus to a temporary, historical influence.

            I am certainly open to the leading of the Spirit, and I believe I am led by the Spirit. I guess my question is whether there is any significant difference between that and what you propose.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim/Garth, it seems to me that the differences between your outlooks are dependent on particular passages of scripture. The Gospel writers were seeking to understand Jesus and what they had heard about him from others (who were themselves not nearer than about third hand transmitters). Having written that, it is also important to realize that we have what God has intended us to have. Since what we have is defective, because it is limited by the understanding of men at that time, and their abilities to express what they understood, it is reasonable to assume that God has provided a means for us to receive what He wants us to receive. John’s Gospel differs significantly from the others, because it contains the writer’s understanding of what he was observing in others, who appear to have been displaying some of the ‘signs of the Spirit’. We have therefore been given the means to see how God wants us to interact with Him. From my own observations, it can be seen that people who do not experience any relationship with God will try to convince others that this is impossible (or surely they themselves would have experienced it!) and that they are mistaken when they interpret particular passages of the bible to confirm it. It is therefore up to each of us to trust in what we ourselves experience and go our own way with God (or with ourselves if we are mistaken!).

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I think it is important for each of us to trust in what we ourselves experience but at the same time consider whether we are mistaken about how we interpret it.

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          • Chas says:

            As long as it doesn’t lead to eternal fence-sitting.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I don’t think I am guilty of that.

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      • Chas says:

        Tim, when you were interpreting tongues, you were actually giving someone a message from God. You must have known that this was not coming from your thought process, so presumably you were able to discern the difference in this case? In instances where you interpreted tongues, it would be reasonable to assume that God chose this route to give someone understanding, because other routes either were not available, or would have been in some way inferior.

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        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          The two times that I interpreted, the messages were of a general, unspectacular nature and were not personal instructions to some unknown individual in the congregation. I cannot say for sure that they were anything other than my own thoughts, though in both cases no one challenged them.

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          • Chas says:

            Tim, interpreted messages might seem to be of a general nature to people to whom they were not sent, but they are meaningful (and thus specific) to people who have been pre-prepared to receive them. I myself have received two, one of which was also for another person (because only they and I could hear it) and the other meant something particular for me, but I do not know whether anyone else would have received the same message, or maybe something different. The message will be specific to any pre-prepared hearer. Other times I have heard tongues interpreted, they seemed to be general in nature, but again could have meant something specific to someone else. One was asking people in the congregation why they did not worship; another just told the same congregation that GOD EXISTS. It is quite possible that these convicted someone who was lukewarm.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            True, Chas. But I think we must maintain humility about such things and not make claims. Even if many interpretations and prophecies are valid, I am convinced that some, perhaps a lot, are not legitimate promptings of the Spirit. If this were not so, then Paul would not have told others to judge their legitimacy.

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          • Chas says:

            Yes, Tim, I am well aware that there are more false prophesies out there than real ones, but God provides us with the means to discern the true from the false, just as He shows us how to discern false tongues from true tongues (although I have heard one very well practiced individual whose tongues is sometimes extremely like the real thing: maybe he speaks against himself at those times). True humility is to surrender to God’s will, not our own, and do exactly what He wants us to do. To do that, we need to know what He wants us to do and then trust that what we have received is just that. God trains us to do it by a series of tests – to see if we are willing to trust Him.

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Garth says:

    I think one of the things I struggled with for a long time was a supposed God who loved but seemingly supported genocide. Then in the new testament introduced a path to salvation but in a world with no communication or ability to see it be given to all. So for thousands of years we have seen probably billions of people with no way to know about Jesus. When I realised that there is a spirit that has nothing to do with going to church or worshiping a certain way that will do two things, teach us all things and reteach us the commands of Jesus I knew God was reaching people all over the world without working exactly the way we wanted or expected. Gods spirit is everywhere touching any who reach out and seek it. I meet an amazing man from India recently who has know real knowledge of Jesus but he was telling me what he believed and it was exactly the same thing. When I asked him where he got his knowledge from he said it was from the spirit of the one true God that he had surrendered to.

    It is nice to hear you acknowledge the work of the spirit. In your previous statements you were quite casual about it and kind of made its influence sound very small. However it is now the present manifestation of God and the single most important thing to focus on. To reject it because of the hypocrisy of pentecostals would be very short sighted.

    I do think until the church can see God like this they will continue to fail, then again maybe that is what God wants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Garth, I fully agree that people all over the world respond the God without our traditional church and worship. I think this is part of God’s broad acceptance of people. And I do not doubt that the ‘Spirit’, however defined, is at work in this. However, I do not think this negates the work of Jesus.

      By the way, I don’t think Pentecostals are hypocrites. I have never renounced Pentecostalism; it is only some excess that I see as problematic.

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Garth, I also wanted to mention that I don’t think God ever supported genocide. I find that troublesome, too.

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    • Chas says:

      Garth, in response to your last paragraph, it seems that it is God’s will for churches, and indeed also individuals, to fail. This is why a church might flourish successfully for a while and then wither away. Individuals too may flourish in their belief for a while, but then just wither away. One reason for churches being allowed to wither is to force individuals who are flourishing and active to go to another church, where their gifts might be used for a better purpose. Churches might also divide, and this is almost always caused by some difference in the interpretation of the Bible and/or the actions of specific individuals.

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  9. Pingback: The Bible is not Magically Inerrant: Exposing Inerrancy Proof-Texts | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: The Bible is not a Rule Book: Overcoming Legalism | Jesus Without Baggage

  11. Consider the words of Isaiah 66:1-5
    “Thus says the LORD:
    “Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
    what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?
    2  All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
    declares the LORD.
    But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.

    3  “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
    he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
    he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
    he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
    These have chosen their own ways,
    and their soul delights in their abominations;
    4  I also will choose harsh treatment for them
    and bring their fears upon them,
    because when I called, no one answered,
    when I spoke, they did not listen;
    but they did what was evil in my eyes
    and chose that in which I did not delight.”

    5  Hear the word of the LORD,
    you who tremble at his word:
    “Your brothers who hate you
    and cast you out for my name’s sake
    have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified,
    that we may see your joy’;
    but it is they who shall be put to shame.”

    This passage speaks of those who would worship God on their own terms, and not according to his word. Notice that God says, “what is the house that you will build for me?”, and, “he who makes a memorial offering of incense (which is what they were supposed to do), like one who blesses an idol.” Why? Because, “These have chosen their own ways…” Not only in this passage, but over and over again throughout the Old Testament, the Jews experienced chastisement and judgment from God because they wanted to worship God like the cultures around them did, or like they felt was the right to them, and not according to his revealed word. Let us not fall into the same trap, where we allow the adversary to tempt us and say, “Did God really say…?” (Gen 3:1).
    God is much greater than our ability to understand him. His Word is likewise beyond our ability to fit into one box. In failing to fit the Word into the box our preconceived worldview, we then reject it instead of humbly “trembling at his word.” Instead, we should learn from the prophet Habakkuk, who, when faced with actions and words from God that went against his whole worldview and his idea of who God should be, he said, “I hear, and my body trembles… yet I will quietly wait… yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (3:16, 18) “The LORD is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silent before him.” (2:20)

    This website shows the ways in which the writers of the Bible or the Scriptures affirm that the Scripture is divinely authoritative and without error. http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Inspiration.html

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Portion, thanks for sharing your views on inspiration and inerrancy. The Rhodes article is pretty good in explaining some of the claims of inerrancy, and I have saved it to my folders on the topic.

      His introductory statement fairly describes an inerrantist position: “Biblical inspiration may be defined as God’s superintending of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities (and even their writing styles), they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs. Inspiration means that ‘the Holy Spirit of God superintended the human writers in the production of Scripture so that what they wrote was precisely what God wanted written.’

      Having been a convinced inerrantist myself, I am familiar with these beliefs but I no longer consider them valid. In his syllogism, I can agree with his major premise that God is true, but the minor premise (that God breathed out the Scriptures) is not true in the way he intends it–so the conclusion is not valid.

      I know that when one is convinced of inerrancy it is difficult to see the Bible any other way. But my sincere belief is that it is not. This does not mean the Bible is not extremely valuable–it is. But the assumptions of inerrancy, in my opinion, seriously distorts the message.

      You probably are not interested, but if you are you can read more on inerrancy by myself and others at https://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/books-and-resources/inerrancy/.

      Thanks again for your participation in this dialog.

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  12. michaeleeast says:

    I agree with #4.
    The Bible has extremely valuable insight and knowledge.
    But It also contains errors.
    We must use our discrimination.
    Outmoded images if God must be avoided.
    The social Justice message of the Old Testament Prophets is reflected
    in the ministry of Jesus.
    Jesus revelation is a breakthrough in human understanding of God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Well said, Michael! All of it. I wish the millions of more conservative believers could understand this.

      Like

  13. Pingback: The Bible is not a Promise Book: Exploring a Misguided Approach to the Bible | Jesus Without Baggage

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  17. th3platform says:

    Great post! Please check out my powerful theological posts! Follow for follow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Hi Th3, I just read several of your post. I think you have and audience, but I am not in that particular audience. I follow a good number of bloggers, and add new bloggers when they address audiences of which I am a part. But I can’t follow blogs that do not address me as a reader.

      I wish you continued growth on your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

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