WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) – became a popular christian slogan.
I enjoyed the similarly titled book, namely, What Would Jesus Deconstruct.
It is so much safer to leave these saying as popular slogans and not give them any serious thought … for one of the things Jesus would surely do today, is deconstruct our ideas about the scriptures. He did so when he walked this earth … and is still up to the same mischief today!
Imagine being part of a skeptical audience addressed by Jesus.
Jesus begins his message by quoting from the scriptures: “You’ve heard it said …”
After quoting the scripture he continues: “But I say to you …”
Excuse me! Did he just elevate his own words above scripture?
This might be enough for most audiences to leave.
Jesus deconstructed scripture … and introduced us to a whole new way of understanding them.
We began a journey of deconstructing popular ideas about the Bible a few weeks ago. Deconstruction is not simply a destructive process, it is a necessary step for opening up new creative possibilities. Today I want to bring some of those thoughts to their conclusion before we start the second half of our journey – a reconstructive one.
In the second article, The Error of Inerrancy, the definition of inerrancy was clarified. Now I know that there are a few who are able to carefully interpret the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in such a way that they are still able to accept contradictions in Scripture. However, as we have travelled to believing communities in many countries, it has become clear that what inerrancy means in practice to ordinary believers is simply this:
- Every statement in scripture is true and correct;
- For it has one author – God – and as such every statement is the inerrant word of God;
- Therefore there cannot be any faults or contradictions.
One cannot blame people for such a simplistic view of inerrancy as a plain and literal reading of the doctrine of inerrancy says exactly that.
With the rest of the series up until, When God disagrees with Scripture, my aim was to show why I cannot, in honesty, hold to a doctrine of inerrancy any more.
In, The Vulnerability of Scripture, I showed how my relationship with scripture matured. Below I have summarized how my view of scripture now differs from an inerrantist point of view.
|One author, one voice||Many authors, many voices|
|No contradictions||Many contradictions|
|Factually correct||Factual errors|
|Historic factual perfection||Historic Philosophy|
|Original perfection||Chaotic story moving towards a beautiful conclusion|
|One-dimensional monologue||Conversation – dynamic dialogue|
|Authoritarian relationship||Friendship of vulnerability (which carries more authority than an dictatorship)|
|Every statement is God’s word||The whole narrative, with all its characters, voices and flaws is part of God’s conversation with us.|
|The Word that was in the beginning with God, was God … and became the Bible!||The Word that was in the beginning with God, was God … and became flesh.|
As many are making this journey in their relationship with the scriptures, I sometimes hear people say: “ … but does this not complicate the Bible … how will I know when God is speaking and when people are speaking …”
This implies that an inerrant view of scripture would make it easier to understand. Ironically though, among those who agree that the Bible has one author – God Himself – and that it is inerrant in everything it states … you won’t find two who agree as to what the Bible actually says. It seems that the only thing they agree on is something you cant find in the Bible – the doctrine of inerrancy!
Certainly a maturing relationship with scripture does open up a whole new dimension in the same way a meaningful conversation requires more participation than listening to a monologue. Yet such conversation brings more clarity to the message not less. Recognizing many voices in the scriptures, makes the voice of God more distinct, not less. How to distinguish will be explored in upcoming articles.
Acknowledging the contradictions in scripture also allows me to honestly listen to each author … instead of enforcing a predetermined meaning on every narrative to make them all say the same thing. It actually makes things much simpler if I don’t have to force Luke to say the same thing as Matthew.
They contradict one another.
Once I got over that, I could listen more carefully to their individually unique messages.
Acknowledging errors, faults and imperfections … allows me to see even more clearly that these authors were people just like us. Just as God chose to speak to us most clearly through a human being just like us – Jesus – the book He often speaks through is also fully human. The Bible as the word of man, makes it uniquely relevant to humanity. The imperfections in the text do not give ground for accusation or distrust, rather, as with all intimate friendships, vulnerability becomes a key ingredient to a growing relationship.
I trust that you are starting to see the positive possibilities that open up when the doctrine of inerrancy is abandoned for what I consider to be an altogether more honest approach to scripture. As we venture further into the reconstructive half of this series, it is important to clarify what that means and what it does not mean.
The intention with the deconstructive phase was not simply pull apart long held beliefs and expose them as false. Neither is the purpose of the reconstructive phase to build a new structure of correct beliefs. Rather, deconstruction is an ongoing attitude in which we remain mindful of how our thoughts and beliefs are structured. And even in the reconstructive phase there is an ongoing process of replacing unconscious assumptions with conscious conclusions.
Reconstruction is not building a new perfect doctrine in the place of the old deconstructed one. Rather, it is equipping us for an adventurous journey – one filled with risk and danger. This journey has no guaranteed destination. For as we follow the pioneer of our faith, we discover that true faith shows itself most clearly, not in the certainty of how right we are, but in the midst of difficult … impossible situations. The goal is not to teach you exactly what to think and believe about the scriptures, but rather how to explore and how to think – how to find yourself inserted into a living narrative.
Has anything changed in the way you approach scripture?