Lying and Telling the Truth

English: the beginning of the 1. Epistle to th...
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Last post, I began to explore some questions about what it means to believe that the bible is inspired, especially when Paul says a few times that he is just speaking as himself.

This blogger had a really interesting response.  He put into words some of the things I was going to say in this follow-up.  A portion of his comment is below:

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.

I think he is ultimately on to something.  But taking this tract still has some problems for me that I’d like to think out loud about.

Because the thing is, based on the English translation, Paul doesn’t seem like he isn’t sure whether or not he’s speaking God‘s words.  He seems pretty confident that he is just speaking as himself.  This does not mean that these words are unimportant or untrue.   There are numerous books written by wise people.   And Paul was one of the wisest.  But no matter how wise a person is, it seems like we ought to grant a seperate, lower status to these books than the bible.  I’d like to believe that most people, even the authors themselves, would agree that CS Lewis, Max Lucado, or Rob Bell books ought to be secondary to scripture.

I actually believe that God is at work through those three authors.  In some limited sense they might be inspired.  But this is a far cry from the deep meaning that “inspired” should have for the bible.

And I don’t think it’ll work to suggest that Paul was wrong when he wrote that he was speaking for himself and not God.  Of course Paul was fallible in his every day life.  He was probably even capeable of making mistakes if he was doing something at the same time as he wrote scripture.  (For example, if he was writing the book of Romans at the same time he was making dinner, it would be quite possible for him to make mistakes on the dinner recipe.)  But what doesn’ t seem possible is for him to write something untrue at the very time he is inspired. It seems that if it means nothing else, being inspired should certainly mean that one is writing the truth.

It’s also a bit tricky to suggest that God was decieving Paul.   It doesn’t seem consistent with God’s nature.   Jesus is the truth; could the members of the trinity lie?

To some extent, the answer here is the one that almost always pops up in these discussions: our puny little brains simply aren’t able to comprehend God.

To whatever extent their is an humanly comprehensible explanation, I suspect it will revolve around just what we mean by truth.  I believe that a person it makes sense to suggest some events didn’t literally occur.  I think, in these cases, it makes more sense to focus on the idea that God was telling a very deep truth even if the events didn’t specifically happen.  The truth in the statement “The early bird catches the worm” isn’t invalidated by the lack of an actually, specific bird catching an actual, specific worm.   This statement is true in a more general way which is in some sense deeper than a mere retelling of a specific incident.

So maybe there is some deeper truth expressed by Paul, when he states that he is speaking for himself, not for God.  I’m not sure just how this argument would play out, or what it would mean. 

What do you think?


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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.

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