What if you came to the conclusion that the Bible is unreliable? How would such knowledge impact your relationship with God? The way you answer that question may identify the foundation of your faith. Although most Christians would agree that Jesus is their foundation, the faith of many has suffered when they’ve been confronted with questions they couldn’t answer regarding the authenticity of the scriptures.
For some who are not theologians, discovering that parts of the scripture have been mistranslated can be unsettling. Inaccurate translation has also led to harmful practices, especially in the area of church leadership. But perhaps the most disturbing consideration for one whose faith is based on the Bible being holy, inerrant and complete in its revelation would involve the process by which it was compiled.
There was disagreement and varied opinions among those who made up the group that determined canonization. When the final vote was cast it appears doubtful that the result was suitable for a book in which every word is thought to be God breathed. For instance, from the birth of the Church to 397AD, the church at Antioch accepted and used The Didache and 1st Clement as “scripture” while rejecting 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. At Alexandria, the church also rejected most of those books, but accepted Jude and Barnabus. When the canon was finally settled, a number of books that the first century fathers and apostles considered scripture were excluded by the Protestant Bible we use today.
Much more could be said about the learning curve the apostles were in when they penned their various contributions to the New Testament. Apparent contradictions in scripture and uncertainty about who actually wrote several of the gospels can also be included on a long list of challenges to the authenticity of the scriptures.
Yet even if one is convinced that the final result that produced the Protestant Bible was orchestrated by the Holy Spirit, there’s the matter of correct doctrine. How is one to know what to believe when there are two to four conflicting views of every major doctrine among evangelicals? Furthermore, supporting scriptures and logical argument allow for a strong case to be made for each one!
One of the first songs I was taught as a child in Sunday school went like this:
Yes that’s the book for me!
I stand alone on the Word of God,
Of course nowhere in scripture is it written that we stand on the Bible. But for the average Christian raised up in a religion with Protestant Reformation theology at its roots, the little ditty makes an appropriate theme song. It also serves as a disastrous foundation.
Jesus scolded the Pharisees for diligently searching the scriptures thinking that in them they would have eternal life. He went on to say that the scriptures testified of him, yet they refused to come to him to have life. (John 5:39,40) So Jesus spoke in parables to them. He would not be misrepresented by would-be followers of those who lived by their own understanding and wisdom. It’s the same today.
The Bible has no life in and of itself. It is not a holy book. It is a book that points to Christ who is the fulfillment of the scriptures for all those who receive him by faith. If the Bible contains all the answers and can be perfectly understood by our intellect, we need neither faith nor the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the living word, and the scriptures have value for life in him ONLY as they are made alive by the Spirit of Christ within us. They are interpreted through the filter of God’s love and translated into practical living through our relationship with Christ and one another as we offer ourselves a living sacrifice on a daily basis. Being joined with others whose primary motivation is to please God will help to keep us in the way of love and avoid “private” interpretations of scripture.
What then, does it matter if parts of the Bible are mistranslated, left out or if books by spurious authors were included? It’s only that which reveals God in Christ by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that gives life. Yet theologians continue to search the scriptures finding themes that support their particular prejudices. They pour over an imperfect book looking for answers that are not there, that can only be lived out in an experimental relationship with Christ. Some of the greatest minds still live in Sunday school. They stand alone on the Bible while Jesus walks on.
Jesus is the Solid Rock on which we stand. Our faith rests on Christ alone who is the full revelation of God the Father. We are not slaves to our limited knowledge, nor must everything that the Holy Spirit makes life to us pass the Bible litmus test. Our loyalty is to the Living Word who is the same yesterday, today and forever. If our security rests in anything or anyone else, we’re standing on sinking sand.