Inspired, except for those times when it’s not inspired.

I believe that God had a role in the creation of the bible.  People often use the word “inspired” to describe this idea.  Perhaps, because we have a neat and tidy word, we think we believe roughly the same thing as all the other people who use that word.  More than this, we seem to believe that we have a somewhat clear idea of just what this word means.

The more I think on it, the less I know.  It’s a much more complica

English: folio 150 recto of the codex, with th...
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ted issue than it first appears.  One thing I can say: God didn’t do the good-guy version of posession.  Something of the writers’ personalities shine through the various books in the bible.  For example, we get a snap shot in the differences in temperment when we read Mark’s Gospel and compare it with John’s.

A second thing I’m pretty sure about: things that have happened since the bible came down do not enjoy the same special status as the original pronouncements.  One of the reasons I’m pretty confident on this is that the section headings weren’t in the original.  And quite frequently, they appear to me to be manipulating the meaning of God’s word in a manner inconsistent with the overall thrust of scripture. 

Now, is the thing I really wanted to write about.  I noticed something kind-of interesting as I was reading through first Corinthians chapter 7.  Paul says the following at various points in the chapter, ” I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation.”  … “But to the married people I give charrge– not I but the lord.”  and “To the rest I declare– I not the lord”  “Now concerning the virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion and advice as one who by the Lord’s mercy has been rendered trustworthy”  and “But in my opinion a widow is happier”.

The reason I find these to be such interesting statements is that they imply to varying degrees that Paul is sometimes speaking in some-sort of official capacity, and other times he is more or less off the record.  As some people use the word “inspired” it would seem that Paul is saying that he wasn’t divinely inspired to say some of those things; he was simply offering his own opinion.

So… The whole bible is inspired… except for those few rare sentences?  Maybe there are more sentences like these.  (I’d love to hear them, by the way, if you know ’em) But regardless, these “uninspired” statements are still a huge minority.  Are we meant to take them less seriously than the rest of scripture?

I’ve got some more to say on the topic… But I think I want to let that percolate a couple days before I get there.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “Inspired, except for those times when it’s not inspired.”

  1. Jeff, you’re asking good questions here. Were the Bible’s authors merely taking dictation? Certainly not. Still, I believe there’s a better answer for Paul’s “I, not the Lord” statement in 1 Corinthians 7. I think he was saying that he was not quoting a teaching of the Lord here, but speaking from sanctified wisdom. He said, “…I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:40).

    He may not have been positive that what he’d just written was inspired, but the consistent, continual witness of the church through the centuries has been that he was, indeed, inspired in all that he wrote in 1 Corinthians. The church didn’t make it scripture; the church merely recognized that it was scripture. In short, inspiration of the Bible means that the Lord guided those who wrote, so that they wrote from their own knowledge and from their own personalities, but wrote what the Lord wanted written.


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