Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Books that Changed My Outlook

I first believed the Bible to be the word of God in my early childhood.  Why?  That was what I was told, of course.  That was what I heard in church after the readings.  But as I grew older, I began to ask myself what my basis was for believing the Bible to be the word of God.  I believed in inerrancy only with respect to the doctrines of the Bible and its teachings.  Sure, there were scribal errors but those didn't affect the doctrines.  Sure, there were passages that shouldn't have been in the Bible because "earlier and more reliable manuscripts" did not have those passages (as the footnotes in my Bible tell me) but the passages were minor and few and they didn't touch on doctrine at all.

But what was my basis for believing the Bible to be the word of God?  How could I say that the Bible was "God-breathed" or "inspired by the Holy Spirit" if I had no basis for believing it?

I looked into books by apologists.  Josh McDowell is pretty confident in his defence of the Bible but all apologists tend to be confident.  His scholarship appeared shoddy to me.  To be fair to Josh, he has never pretended to be a scholar.  His job is to defend the faith and he does it admirably well.

I decided to look to the scholars.  And my suspicion was right - Josh McDowell got it all wrong and the truth is far more complex than what I've always been told in church about the Bible.

I've spoken to many Christians about the basis for their belief in the Bible and WITHOUT EXCEPTION, almost all Christians are blissfully ignorant of the Canon and the history of the Bible.  And the funniest thing is they ARE NOT INTERESTED to find out.  What?  A book that is supposed to govern their lives and they're not interested?

Anyway, these are the books I read and boy, did they turn my beliefs upside down! 

The first book I read is Bruce Metzger's book.  Now, Bruce Metzger was the chap who translated the RSV.  He's one of the world's most respected scholars.  The next book was by FF Bruce.  FF Bruce is the greatest name in the evangelical world when it comes to scholarship.  The third book is by Lee MacDonald.  It's a fascinating book and it gives a lot of references and details.

But basically, all the books give roughly the same view.  These books led me to read other books too and I must say I've become quite learned in this field.

So, what is my final answer?  What is my basis for accepting the Bible as the inerrant word of God?  Absolutely no basis.  There is in fact basis not to accept the Bible as the inerrant word of God and to say that the Holy Spirit did not inspire the writing of scriptures.  I have come to the conclusion that it would be an insult to God to attribute authorship or inspiration of the Bible to him.

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