A bit of a comical synchronicity running through my life right now, but I’ve been engaged in a few conversations all around the idea that the Bible is inerrant, our only Standard of Truth, the only way to know Jesus. Irrefutable truth! The Standard! The. Only. One.
Probably sounds pretty good to some Absolute Truth, Bible thumpers, who are big on inerrancy, consistency, and control. Also, probably sounds pretty good to some pastors dealing with difficult people who saw a butterfly land on a deer’s nose and are now convinced it was a message from God telling them to divorce their husband….
Here’s the deal however, some of those conversations I’m referring to are absolutely convinced that the Bible condones polygamy, abortion, homosexuality, and beating your wife. That changes things up a bit doesn’t it? Context really matters! While the Bible is true and inerrant, people are not. People are bloody insane. When they aren’t suffering from poor reading comprehension skills, they are more than happy to slay Mr. Ex Egesis in a poker game and make Scripture say whatever they like.
God bless the idiots of the world who if nothing else, at least teach me how to ask myself hard questions. Also, shout out to those polygamists, Yes, God let Solomon have 300 wives, but he eventually lost his entire kingdom because of it. Read the whole story! Just because there is slavery, rape, murder, polygamy and all manner of human failings in the Bible, does not mean these things are God endorsed. God approved, and good for the rest of us.
Also, one of my favorite Biblical scholars is actually an atheist. Total non believer. Knows the Bible inside and out in several languages and historical contexts. I never challenge him, he is wayyyy smarter than me. But he doesn’t know Jesus and knowing Jesus is everything. The Bible does not necessarily, “make you know Jesus.”
Do people ever pray? Talk to God? Engage in worship? Listen to His still quiet voice? Well, those are all things we do that in no way threaten Biblical truth, in fact they just enhance it.
Keep in mind my perspective is a bit different because I met Jesus when I was 3 yrs old sitting in the sun next to a compost pile, picking a scab on my leg. My parents where devout atheists, there was no Bible, no church, no teachings.
How do I know it was Jesus? I can’t explain it, I just knew. He smelled so incredibly good and that experience is more real to me today than, well today is. All in good humor, I can’t remember where I left my keys or why I walked into the kitchen the other day, but I remember that day with burning clarity. Burning clarity. Still makes my heart race.
I also can’t tell you why when our car skidded in the snow towards the edge of a cliff, the image of Jesus came into my head and His name came out of my mouth. Trust me, it totally freaked my atheist parents out. We slammed hard into a snow bank, but I don’t think the accident freaked them out nearly as much as the name of Jesus just hanging there in the cold air did. We never spoke his name in our world, never.
So the question, “How do you know the character, nature, and purpose of Jesus?” is a really good one. Often we learn about Jesus from the Bible, and really, really important from the way those around us claiming His name behave and treat one another. Some of us just have a close encounter of the God kind like I did, like people in prison do sometimes, like the Apostle Paul did. I am absolutely certain I did not find the Lord, He found me.
That kind of faith is usually a bit rough around the edges, it needs to be fine tuned, it benefits from learning more, but it is an unmistakable faith and it just isn’t something taught by men.
Some people grow up in the church under some really bad theology and are then terribly abused by their parents. I am not at all surprised by those who eventually deconstruct their faith or just leave the church altogether. I am however, really surprised by those who don’t, those who continue to cling to Jesus, those who just know that what they’ve been through does not represent the character, nature, and purpose of Jesus in any way. How do they “know” this? It’s a mystery! Your spirit just knows.
So, about that woman who saw a butterfly land on a deer’s nose and is now convinced it was a message from God telling them to divorce their husband. Big sigh here, but “my sheep know my voice.” That’s in the Bible. Learning to hear His voice takes wisdom and discernment. You can get it wrong especially of there is too much “you” in that equation and not enough of Him. We are always in danger of hearing what we want to hear, not hearing what God wants to say to us.
Unfortunately we’re also pretty good at just reading into the Bible what we want to see it say, usually in a way that reflects and validates our own worldview.
So, it is for all these reasons listed above that the Bible is not my standard of truth, Jesus is. Jesus Himself IS The Word. He even calls Himself The Word! Everything I read must pass through the lens of Jesus. If I am reading something that seems contradictory to the character, nature, and purpose of Jesus, the Bible is not in error, but my understanding of the passage certainly is. God does not contradict Himself, He does not sow confusion.
I’m sharing this today because my heart kind of goes out to some of those Absolute Truth, Bible thumpers, and the pastors with the butterfly chasing prophetesses. You guys need to trust in the Lord more, rest in His finished work, and relax. It’s not ALL on you to get it right.
God can use anybody and anything, at any time. He can, He does, and He will.