Why Knowing Jesus Outside the Bible Is What the Bible Is All About

Over the weekend I spend 3 days debating “Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit” with a few dozen other people in the forest outside of Seattle, Washington.

Image: Keith Giles and Chuck McKnight

Several of the other speakers at this conference maintained that the Bible was the only possible way for anyone to know who Jesus is. Why? Because, as one of them put it: “Everything I know about Jesus came from the Bible. I’ve never heard God’s audible voice. I can’t have a seance to contact Jesus. So, the Bible is how God speaks and how I know who Jesus is.”

So, to put it another way: “My experience with Jesus comes from a book. Therefore, I trust my experience with a book rather than trusting in other experiences without a book.”

Here’s the irony: Christians argue that the Bible is the only way to know Christ because that is their experience. So, they are basing their argument against trusting in our experience on their experience of trusting a Bible [which encourages us to experience Christ].

Isn’t that weird?

Think about this: Right now there are dozens of stories coming from Muslims in the Middle East about how Jesus is appearing to them in visions and dreams. Because of this, many of them are turning to Christ.

Is this really happening? I believe it could be true. But, even if it’s not, several of these same people at the conference I just attended do believe it’s real. At least twice I heard people referring to these Muslims who are having visions of Jesus and turning to faith in Christ.

Now, let’s think about this for a second. Imagine going to the Middle East ten years from now and entering a Church filled with former Muslims who all came to Christ after seeing Jesus in a vision or a dream. What would they say if you asked them, “What’s the main way that Jesus speaks to us today?” or “How can we know anything about Jesus?” what would you think they’d say?

If their experiences of coming to Christ were all based on a vision or a dream, then we should expect them to answer, “Visions and dreams are the primary way God communicates to us today. I wouldn’t even be a Christian or know anything at all about Jesus if it weren’t for dreams and visions. Sure, the Bible is great! But everything I know about Jesus came through an actual encounter with Jesus.”

See? That’s the problem. We tend to limit everyone’s experience or encounter with God based on our own experience or encounter. If we primarily came to Christ by reading a book [or by being taught from a book], then we will become convinced that the book is the best and only way to know anything about God.

But, if we primarily come to know Christ by encountering him personally through a dream or a vision, we’re likely to become convinced that experiences from God are best [and only?] way to know God.

Of course, our faith in Christ is about so much more than knowledge of God. It’s not about gathering information about God. Our faith in Christ is supposed to be based on a relationship with the Divine.

God, in Christ, has come near. This is what “Emmanuel” means. “God with us” is one of the names of Jesus. He is with us right now.

Jesus emphasized that eternal life was defined by our intimate “knowing” of God in a way that births new life, the way an intimate encounter between a man and a woman conceives something brand new within.

Try to keep in mind:

The Word of God is not a book. The Word of God is Jesus.

The Word of God speaks to you. The Bible is silent.

The Word of God lives within you. The Bible is not alive.

The Word of God will never leave you. The Bible can be misplaced.

The Word of God suffered and died on a cross. The Bible isn’t breathing.

The Word of God loves you. The Bible doesn’t love anyone.

If we’re going to read the Bible, let’s actually pay attention to what it teaches. The Bible never points us to itself. The Bible points us to Christ. The Bible also teaches that we can – and should – experience God for ourselves.

The Bible also teaches us to listen to the voice of God and learn to follow the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth.

You can know Christ through your Bible, yes. But you can also know Christ the way you know an actual person. You can experience Christ, right now. You can hear His voice. You can know His thoughts. You can experience His love. You can know His peace.

I invite you to move beyond the Bible to experience Jesus for yourself. So does the Bible.

**

Keith Giles is the author of several books, including the forthcoming “Jesus Unbound: How the Bible Keeps Us From Hearing the Word of God”, available July 4th, 2018.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”. He is the co-host of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

Please, join me at one of these upcoming events:

*The Nonviolent Love of Christ: How Loving Our Enemies Saves The World, with Joshua Lawson and Keith Giles on Saturday, June 16 in Portsmouth Ohio. Register here>

*Crucifying Our Politics with Keith Giles on June 24 in Cleveland, OH. Register here>

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Etranger

    If you start from the premise that Jesus is savior, you can make anything fit the narrative!

  • Al Cruise

    People from all around world knew Jesus long before the Bible was written.

  • Etranger

    That makes absolutely no sense at all.

  • otrotierra

    Indeed. Jesus is literally The Word, not sentences printed on parchment.

  • Graeme Cooksley

    It seems that there is a school of thought about that says The Bible is the final revelation from God, and anything received today is suspect/not acceptable, since we have the Bible.
    Somehow the Jn 10.27 assurance gets overlooked, but we should expect to hear The Lord’s voice.

  • I agree with almost all of this, however, the Word is NOT Jesus. The Word is not a book or a person, but it can be contained (although that is the wrong word) in a book (let’s say described or related by a book), or EMBODIED by a person. I have long maintained that someone could know “Christ” without ever hearing the name Jesus. (Besides His original name is closer to Joshua.) Christ isn’t even a real word it is a transliteration made up from the Greek word “christos” which has a actual meaning in English (gasp!) Progressively by time: “annointed” = messiah, savior, chosen one.
    “Jesus Christ” = Josh the chosen one

    Jesus is like a cup of coffee. Before Jesus, the Word (aka “Expression”) was just “spilled on the ground” or even better and fittingly just “grew on branches.” Now that Jesus understood and expressed it we can drink it more easily from him. But “the truth is out there” without Him.
    especially now that He has put it out there for everyone! One becomes a child of something by embodying the characteristics of its “parent.” One becomes divine by containing the divine, as Jesus did, and as we can.

    Not to mention Jesus described God to the Jews and the rest of us using ancient Hebrew language and culture. If Jesus “comes back” (even though He’s here now) there is no reason to think He wouldn’t use modern concepts and culture to describe the divine ONE. Jesus could be Oprah Winfrey for instance! (That’s only an example LOL.)

    (Sorry i may be repeating myself from previous comments on other articles as the same authors often appear in the Patheos email.)

  • soter phile

    One significant, salient problem with your position: Jesus’ own view of the book.

    Jesus quoted the Scriptures non-stop with incredible reverence for them.
    Jesus directly referred to the human authors of this book and still called it the word of God.
    Maybe most staggering, he repeatedly claimed these Scriptures were all about him (Lk.24:27,44; Jn.5:39; etc.).

    You seem to want to divorce Jesus from his view of the Scriptures, but no one in the Bible quotes the Scriptures more.

    If the Jesus you are claiming is not a thoroughly biblical Jesus, we’re not talking about the same Jesus… certainly not the historical Jesus found in the earliest, most well attested documents.

  • soter phile

    Forget one’s premise. Let’s talk reading comprehension.
    Are you actually claiming that “savior” is not a thorough-going theme found throughout the Scriptures?

  • soter phile

    And yet there’s Jesus, Word Incarnate, repeatedly quoting those sentences that were printed on parchments…

  • Etranger

    Interesting – the point of the article is finding Jesus “outside” of the Bible. Yet, as you eloquently illustrate by your comment, the only way to conceive of Jesus as the savior and therefore someone to be revered is through the scriptures. Talk about circular reasoning! (I sometimes feel like Christians actually love and thrive on circular reasoning 🙂 )