Trust God, Not the Bible

Trust God, Not the Bible October 21, 2015

Maybe the Bible isn’t something that should should be an object of trust Pete Enns

Here is a larger excerpt from the blog post from which the quote comes:

Here’s a common issue that comes up in classes, when I am out speaking, or when I get emails and comments on blog posts I write:

Pete, you’re talking about all these historical problems, tensions, contradictions in the Bible–basically the messiness of the Bible. So how can we now trust the Bible? I mean, how can such a messed up book be our faithful standard and authoritative guide for faith and life?

Here is my point in all of this: It is precisely how the Bible behaves that tells us that maybe these questions—though genuine and heartfelt—are missing the mark.

These questions presume something of the Bible that my pointing out of historical problems, etc., supposedly “takes away.” That presumption is that a book worthy of being called “sacred scripture” or “God’s word” would not behave these ways but instead be consistent, historically accurate, etc.

I reject that presumption because the Bible so clearly doesn’t behave that way. It bears these marks of messiness.

Maybe the Bible isn’t something that should be the object of our trust. Maybe—as the Bible repeatedly says—the object of our trust is God.

And God and the Bible aren’t the same thing.

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  • Larry Logan

    Idol Worship

    Some worship the Bible more
    Than He at that idol’s core.

    • charlesburchfield

      yep that’s true! do you ever wonder why that is? IMO when one’s earthly family and friends abandon, betray, abuse one, esp when it happens at an early age, one’s brains and heart are injured in a particular way that make one susceptible to falling into more injurious relationships. when abuse, betrayal and abandonment bc a lifelong habit of experience close loving relationships are not a poss bc one has never known such nor known anyone to role model them. ppl in such distress live in a constant state of fear, lonelyness, emptyness & hypervigilance. one is stuck in a semi infantile state & is not able to move thru one’s developmental stages and tasks. one’s defense mechanisms fill in the gap where the mature autonomous person should have been. this default pattern protects one but also controlls one’s responses to other ppl’s needs and one’s own. one will tend to bc self absorbed, defensive, even hostile. one can be vulnerable to multiple addictions, cult experiences, idols, fetishes and love objects. One can be tempted to believe these things have some kind of magical power to protect one and give one some inclusion to a society that approves the things one is buying into. the Bible can bc one of those things in my opinion.

      • John MacDonald

        A number of times in my life I have got down on my knees and prayed and cried and begged for Jesus to come into my life and be my personal savior. I never felt anything. I don’t know what the experience of the numinous is supposed to feel like, but I never felt the presence of God in answer to my prayers. It’s hard to trust a God who doesn’t answer.

        • Gakusei Don

          I believe that God answers all prayers. It’s just that sometimes His answer is “WTF???” 🙂

          • John MacDonald

            At the time I felt like Woody Allen’s character from the movie “Hannah and her Sisters,” lol:

          • Gakusei Don

            I’m like Woody’s old man in the clip — “How can I know why God allowed Nazis to exist. I don’t even understand how the can opener works.”

            My favorite Woody Allen quote: “Life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.”

        • As someone who has had spiritual experiences, this is a tough one for me. I know that Dean Hamer’s research indicates that there is a genetic component involved in predisposing us to be able to have a sense of self-transcendence.

          I don’t think that spirituality is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. For some, the sinner’s prayer is the thing. In my case, it was simply reaching the end of my rope and crying out to God that my way of living isn’t working and so whatever God’s way is, I want to try it. A life-changing sense of peace came over me. That was in a church, but Buddhists talk about letting go in absolute surrender too, and I imagine that they have the same kind of experience. And so catharsis should be available even to those who don’t have a theistic viewpoint, as well as to those who do.

          All this to say that I am not sure why your sincere attempts to connect with a transcendent reality beyond yourself did not lead to anything, but I would be happy to talk more about this to see if we can figure it out.

          • John MacDonald

            You would think God would manifest Himself to someone who made a sincere and heartfelt plea for Him to come into his/her life. Oh well, I found agnosticism, so everything worked out.

          • Gakusei Don

            John, what would you expect God to say or do when He manifests Himself to you, such that He would not need to manifest to you a second time? Like “Hey God, come back! I’ve got some more sincere questions for you!”

            If God manifests Himself so that you now believe in God, what would you then do? Believe in the Bible? Believe in reincarnation? Believe in Jesus as 100% man and 100% God? So God manifests Himself and you believe in God — so what? A lot of people believe in God, but they try not to let it upset their day.

          • John MacDonald

            When I called out to God in the past, I would have been satisfied with any kind of response: a sense of peace or well being, or a least the feeling that there was something more out there than just the cold material world. I never felt anything that might be called “the presence of the numinous.”

          • Cecil Bagpuss

            If you see the world as a bleak place beyond which you have to look for the promise of enchantment, that may be the problem. The world as it is revealed by science is full of wonders, and by contemplating them, you may begin to feel a sense of the numinous. This would be in keeping with the Judaeo-Christian tradition, according to which the world is seen as a reflection of God’s glory.

          • John MacDonald

            I have done all three. I have tried to approach God at my lowest of low points. I have tried to approach God when things have been going “average.” I have even tried to approach God in celebratory and praiseful times. I’ve often wondered at people thanking God when they have “won a competition.” Does this mean God caused their competitors to lose? Anyway, I’ve approached God in a multitude of times and in a multitude of ways, but I’ve never received any feedback. Something may happen some day, and I am open to it if it ever does.

          • It is interesting that your calling out to God and not experiencing anything has led you to a high degree of agnosticism, and that my calling out to God and having a cathartic spiritual experience has led me to a high degree of agnosticism. It is interesting that different experiential paths can converge on a recognition of the tentativeness of and our uncertainty about a lot of our ideas.

          • John MacDonald

            I think uncertainty brings with it a receptiveness to new ideas and different positions. You mentioned a few years ago an openness to Earl Doherty’s book, before you started reviewing it and finding the arguments lacking. I think agnosticism goes along with creativity, because it is supportive of looking at ideas from different perspectives/point of views. Lack of certainty, or hesitation when faced with “thinking in absolutes,” has always been advantageous when abandoning worn out biases/prejudices, or synthesizing new systems of thought.

        • Cecil Bagpuss

          John, perhaps you were waiting for God to shout to you and you didn’t hear Him whispering.

          • John MacDonald

            At the time, I was listening as hard as I could. I guess, in a way, even though I’m agnostic, I still listen from time to time to hear if Someone might be out there. Still waiting though.

          • Neko

            You’re already on the way. Relax! The wind blows where it will. 🙂

  • Nick Gotts

    But if the Bible is not to be trusted (and of course, it isn’t), why should it be trusted when it tells us to trust God?

    • It shouldn’t. That is still trusting the Bible. There is a big difference between putting trust in the Bible, and finding that the combination of personal experience, communal perspectives, and reading literature ancient and modern points one in a perspective that one finds for oneself to be helpful.

  • John MacDonald

    “First we had the land, and they had the bibles. Now, we have the bibles, and they have the land.” Chief Dan George