No, the Writers of the Bible Did Not Expect It To Be Taken Literally [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

This week’s Question That Haunts Christianity cames from Nina:

Questions that haunt: did people of Jesus’ time even expect the stories they were telling to be taken literally? Would they be shocked to learn that 2,000 years later we are interpreting them that way?

They told lots of stories then about people who were sons of god, and born of virgins, and resurrected — these were themes that came up regularly. It doesn’t seem to me (or to most scholars since David Friedrich Strauss, I think), that first century folks approached storytelling with the idea that their stories were literally accurate (they instead were symbolically True).

What if when we try to interpret the virgin birth or the resurrection as historically true (rather than symbolically True) we’re just completely misunderstanding the original intent of these stories? What if people in antiquity were way more sophisticated than we are, and they would think we were impossibly thick to be interpreting their beautiful stories this way?

To give a modern example, what if I had a southern friend who said “She’s so crazy about her man, it’s like he hung the moon.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t think his ladder would reach that high.” Imagine the reaction I would get….

Great comments, as always. This week, there wasn’t really one thread that dominated, but lots of smaller threads, chasing down various ideas. I’ll probably touch on lots of them with my more narrative response:

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Dispensationalists Are Wrong – Things Aren’t Getting Worse [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Last Tuesday’s Question That Haunts Christianity came from Jesse:

I’m a regular blog reader though I’ve never commented. Here is my ‘question that haunts’ which may belie my fundamentalist background: Is the trajectory of our human culture/world/society positive or negative? In other words, are we fighting the long defeat until Christ returns to set things right or are we participating in an ever-advancing Kingdom of The Heavens (Willard) which will someday culminate with Christ’s return?

A plethora of comments were posted. This interchange between two readers is indicative of what some thought: [Read more...]

The Bible Can Be Authoritative, Even If It’s Relative [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Last Tuesday’s Question That Haunts Christianity came from Chris:

This question has been bugging me for a while. To preface, I consider myself a progressive (certainly ex-evangelical) Christian. My question relates to ethics in general and the Bible in particular. We all assume that there is a particular way that each of us SHOULD or SHOULD NOT act. I.e., we all harbor the notion that some acts are inherently moral or immoral. As a progressive, I don’t consider the Bible itself to be the “Word of God” or some kind of objective moral authority. I consider (as I’m sure many of your readers do) it to be a collection of writings that detail the experiences of the authors with the divine. As such, it is just as captive to subjectivity as the rest of us are.

If this is the case, however, how is it that we are to determine moral decisions? If there is no objective moral authority we can point to in order to determine an ethical system, what are we left with? (These are honest questions I have been wrestling with, as I continue to struggle between determining the possibility of access to SOME kind of objectivity, if that even exists).

Great and numerous comments ensued here. My $.02:

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The Best Bible Software

So, here’s the story. I can’t really even remember how it began, but I posted somewhere that I was looking for an online, interlinear version of the Septuagint for a word I was researching for my next book. Pretty obscure, I know. Well, I heard from the people at Logos that they, indeed, had such a thing.

I’d had Logos back in the day. It was an early version, back when I was on a church staff and had a budget for such things. It came on CD-ROMs, and they’d mail updates every once in a while. But I hadn’t used Logos in many years.

The folks at Logos offered to give me the latest version if I’d review it. I told them that my review would be honest, and they were cool with that (I’m not being compensated for this review, and the embedded links are not part of a commissioned sale). So off I went. And here’s what I think:

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