Saturday, 18 May 2019

Tradition and revival

New wine in new wineskins

– On church structure and tradition

Every might move of the Spirit of God in the past (commonly called “revivals” or “awakenings”) have changed some aspect of traditional church – things like tent meetings, altar calls, prayer meetings, bible studies or small groups, house churches, etc. was originally something “new” (even if much of it could be found in the New Testament already).
Jesus made an important point when He was confronted by the Pharisees for his disciples not fasting according to the Jewish traditions of the time. New wine needs to be poured into new wineskins.
Today there are many different Christian traditions. The issue is not that some traditions are good or true and some are bad… the issue is whether the traditions still serve the Kingdom of God? If God would work through his Holy Spirit again like in New Testament times, would our current church structure be able to handle it? Or would it be a stumbling block and a means of resisting the Holy Spirit of God? If God sends us the revival that many are praying for, would our church structures be able to handle it? Or will it be like pouring new wine into old wineskins… the skins will burst and the wine spill? If 3000 should become believers in one day (and one town/city) would we be able to baptise and include them into the body of Messiah like the Jerusalem church did? Are our structures and level of maturity of current believers really prepared to handle such an outworking of the Spirit of God?
There are many aspects of modern church (including protestant churches) that are not based on the Bible, but are based on human tradition (see “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola). But not all of them will necessarily be a hindrance the the work of the Spirit in revival, as long as they do not become more important than the Word of God.

One tradition that can be a stumbling block, is the position of the pastor / preacher as somehow above the “ordinary” congregation members. Jesus made it explicit that we should not be seeking positions and titles, but that the way to lead is to serve. Peter repeats that in his letter: the elders (shepherds) should take care of the flock, not by coercion or for profit, but eagerly and cheerfully, not as dictators or domineering, but as examples (1 Pet.5). There is no precedent in the New Testament for the idea of a clergy and laity. “for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers … you have one Master, the Messiah. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt.23) It is by imitating and demonstrating the life of Messiah Jesus, that our leaders are to lead. The aim is to teach the sheep to be able to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd for themselves (John 10), not to rule! Unless this same attitude is in the hearts of our leaders that were in Jesus (Phil.2), humbling Himself for us, they will often offer the greatest resistence to the Holy Spirit working in the body of Messiah in revival! This often happened in the past. While the “five-fold ministry” of Ephes.4:11-12 can to some extent help us to function as the body of Jesus on earth in having different leadership gifts (rather than just a “pastor” or teacher), it can also become an excuse for seeking titles and positions!

The other important “tradition” that can grieve the Holy Spirit and prevent revival, is the lack of unity among believers. While I may disagree with my brother about many things, if he is truly following Jesus and would be accepted by God on this basis and if he is not living in open sin or teaching false teaching that would endanger the salvation of those who hear him, we have to accept each other as true brothers in Christ, loving each other as He loves us and not allow our differences (sometimes simply differences in musical taste!) to divide us. Moreover, we can (and should) actually learn from each other. By having our church denominations that isolate us from other believers, ways of worship and different teaching emphasis, we are missing out on the fullness of the body of Messiah. Division in the body of Messiah, a proud spirit of being right, rather than being loving, is one reason why we do not see the reality of New Testament churches and the same power today.

The last point that I believe is very important, is that we should not confuse church structure (new wineskins) with the power and life of the Holy Spirit (true revival). Just changing our traditions and structures are meaningless on its own. Starting to have house churches, because God blessed and gave revival in China through house churches, is to miss the point. It is not the structure that is important (even if we change to be closer to the primitive New Testament church) – it is the power and fruit of the Spirit of the Most High God that matters. A New Testament church structure can only prepare us for the outpouring in power of the Spirit of God (like the first church in Acts 1), but it is not the Holy Spirit Himself. Revival, the church of Jesus which have become luke-warm, cold, dead or tolerant of false teaching (Rev.2-3), repenting and becoming alive again is above all an inner working of the Holy Spirit, not an outward manifestation through structures and (new) traditions. In a time where the church in the West has become stagnant and cold and where many young people are leaving the church, may we have the wisdom and courage to prepare ourselves for what God wants to do in and through us as his body on earth.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Where I get spiritual food

Where I get food

From the beginning Jesus called his disciples into a group of fellow disciples. One of the major dangers of solitary Christians is that we may become “strange”. We can all too easily be led by our own subjective glasses through which we read the Bible into all kinds of strange and simply wrong understandings nad interpretations of the Word of God. That is why Paul also confirmed his message with the first apostles (Gal.2:1-10). This is also why periods of being alone with God in the Bible are always that: just for a certain time. It might be very necessary, but it is not meant to last forever.
The Word of God in the Bible is like milk for newly-born babies and like solid food for those who have grown a bit in the Christian life after having been born again (1 Pet.1:25 - 2:2; Heb.5:12-14). So my first source of spiritual food is the Bible. Reading the Bible for yourself is like eating a rare steak; you need to to cut it and chew it for yourself to get the most out of it. Many Christians never progress past eating pre-cut and overdone bits of steak or eating only milk and porridge. They only read “daily devotions” from some book that quote maybe one or two verses from the Bible or from a preacher in church – all prepacked and cooked and pressed through the blender of one person’s interpretation to make it easily digestable. We cannot grow like this… but perhaps it is also not healthy to only eat steak every day?
So before continuing in sharing what I am learning in my time of silence with God, I think it is important to mention that much of what I share is not simply my own opinion of what I read in the Bible. I have been reading books and a few online groups regularly on the internet. One of the things that I noticed, is that God has been speaking with many different people all over the world, saying essentially the same things. In this post I would like to share some of my sources for spiritual food in this time.
  1. The Bible. I am currently in the process of reading through the Bible in a year again. This is not the same as in-depth Bible study, but God still uses it to speak to me. As part of this, I am also recording (and sharing on WhatsApp) the various Messianic prophecies that I find. Both milk and solid food, this is the most important part of my spiritual diet.
  2. While I do not generally like “daily devotion” type of books, the one exception is “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. It is available online and as a daily e-mail: My Utmost for His Highest
  3. Frank Viola (author of “Pagan Christianity”, “Reimagining church” and other good books) has an online blog and an online network focusing on the deeper Christian life. More recently, he has written a book “Insurgence” and a web site dedicated to the principles discussed in that book.
  4. Those who know me, also know that I have a heart for Israel. Two Messianic groups in Israel from which I recceive good spiritual food, are Tikkun International and Revive Israel (I was a volunteer for a few months at Moshav Yad Shmonah as well, and helped to build some of their wooden guest houses).
  5. A favourite for me for keeping in touch with world news from a Christian perspective, is Incontext Ministries.
  6. And of course, we are priviledged today in that while I am fairly isolated in the mountains, I can still post online, and from time to time connect with friends via WhatsApp or Facebook (and even e-mail)… and like all believers in the past, pray for each other.
  7. Just being able to spend time in creation (and getting paid for it!) and seeing and praising the wonderful works of God’s hands, is of course water for my soul. He has made all things good Ps.104.

Monday, 6 May 2019

What is revival?

What is revival? (and what it is not)

Revival is commonly seen as a supernatural and uncommon intervention by God’s Holy Spirit in which large numbers of people repent and come to faith in Jesus. Some people prefer the word “awakening” to describe such a revival. But in both cases it is commonly seen as something that God does of his own free will and with little (if any) human involvement. Others point to the external trappings of past revival (e.g. a series of tent services) and calls any such activities “a revival” – in this case, mostly something that happens as the result of human effort. However, I am convinced that both of these viewpoints are missing something vital, mistaking the results of revival for real revival itself.
The word “revival” does not occur in the New Testament at all. It does occur in the Old Testament (“Will you not make us alive again” = “revive us again” – Ps.65, Hos.6), and the idea is found throughout Scripture including the last book of the New Testament, Revelation. Why would revival be important if it is such a small part of the Scriptures? Or rather, if revival is of such importance as many seem to believe (myself included), why is it not mentioned more in the New Testament?
I believe that there is a good reason for this and it has everything to do with what revival actually is. Revival is not mentioned in most of the New Testament, because most New Testament churches did not need revival. The clue is in the very word that is used. Only something or someone that has died or is almost dead, can be revived. And almost all the churches in the New Testament period were alive and growing – there was no need for revival! Because this is the most important prerequisite for revival: unless the church is dying or almost dead already, it has no need for revival. Revival implies something coming back to life: “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Rev.3:1-2). By the time of Revelation, we are confronted with a number of 1st century churches who were indeed in need of revival. Can we really say that our situation is all that different today? Do our churches look more like that of the first church in Jerusalem, or rather similar to most of these we find in Revelation? “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Revival is the body of Messiah on earth becoming alive again and living the life to which He called us. It is not simply an unusual and supernatiral temporary “visitation by the Spirit of God”. It is the restoration to the normal Christian life in the church, the life that we find described in the New Testament. And yes, there were many people coming to repentance and the Holy Spirit working in power to bring the lost to Messiah (just read Acts). But this was a result of what the Holy Spirit had done within the congregations of disciples. For this reason, I am convinced that true revival is not something that should ever stop. It is not the will of God that his church should die again and that this death should be called “normal”. Yes, even within the New Testament church there are different seasons – a time of rapid growth in numbers followed by a time of deeper spiritual growth (being built up in love, knowledge and grace) or a period of persecution and testing – but it does not (and should not) be followed by a season of being dead, where the church looks no different from the world and often only keep the outer trappings of previous revivals, “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:5).
Will you pray with me that God would open our eyes to see his church through his eye? Will you pray for mercy and the Spirit of repentance and new life within the church? Jesus told those first century churches in Revelation that He would remove their lamps if they did not repent (for most of them that is exactly what has happened – those towns in Muslim Turkey have been without a Christian church for centuries). How long do we think He will allow our luke-warm and spiritually dead western church to survive and spatter mud on his holy Name? Yes, like in Revelations there are congregations that do not need revival because they are already alive and growing in the power of the Holy Spirit. But is this not the exception rather than the rule today?
What do you think about revival? Is it something we need today? Why (not)?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

On authority and submission

This is really in response to Are authority and submission inherently flawed?
Just a few thoughts:
Jesus explicitly tells his disciples not to let people call them "father", "teacher", etc., because we are to have only one Teacher, Leader and head, Jesus Himself. In other words, in our leadership we are not to search for high positions, we are not to lord it over fellow believers (1 Pet. 5:1-6) "Therefore, I urge the congregation leaders (elders) among you, as a fellow-leader and witness to the Messiah’s sufferings, as well as a sharer in the glory to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is in your care, exercising oversight not out of constraint, but willingly, as God wants; and not out of a desire for dishonest gain, but with enthusiasm; also not domineering over those in your care, but as people who become examples to the flock. Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive glory as your unfading crown. Likewise, you who are less experienced, submit to leaders. Further, all of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because God opposes the arrogant, but to the humble he gives grace. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time he may lift you up."
For me the teaching of Jesus is clear that people are in leadership to the extent that they resemble Jesus in humility. The elders are those who have been following Him for longer, knows Him better and can thus better teach the inexperienced ones how to know Him and hear his voice for themselves and follow Him. He is finally the one we are to follow. The authority that leaders have is the authority of Jesus, as Paul said (paraphrased): "Follow me as I follow Messiah (or to the extent that I follow Him)."

This brings me to the issue of submission. Almost every time it is mentioned in the Bible, it is mentioned in the context of everyone submitting to one another. A Christian leader who is unwilling to receive correction from the least of the brothers, are transgressing the command of the Lord. Secondly, and more importantly, we are also commanded repeatedly to submit to the secular authorities under which we have been placed by God. But this submission only follows as long as they do not require us to transgress against our Lord, Jesus Himself. The same, even more so, is true for the leadership of spiritual leaders. Jesus is the only King, the only Lord, the only Messiah who we are all to follow. If our spiritual leaders in any way leads us to be unfaithful to Him, there is no reason to obey them (even if we still honour them). The command of the general always have higher authority than the corporal, and we obey the corporal only to the extent that his commands reflect that of the general. If course, the leadership of our Lord looks different than that of an earthly military general, but the principle of Jesus having the highest and final authority holds for all Christians. And discipleship implies that all the sheep (not only the "leaders") learn to hear and know his voice (John 10).

Why am I bothering to respond to this issue? For two reasons:

  1. I have seen spiritual abuse too often hiding under the mask of "submission". We first submit to Jesus and as a result submit to our fellow believers (all of us). But this submission to people is not and should never be, a substitution for getting to know the Lord ourselves and hearing his voice ourselves. Too often we have people following a specific pastor or teacher blindly ("I am from Paul" or "I am from Peter") and not learning to know and hear the Lord.
  2. The "church" has too often built up a hierarchy of authorities that resembles the principles and structures of the world, rather than that of Jesus. And once it is established, it becomes almost impossible, even for the leaders in it, to change. Leadership organisations have made decisions for the church, that were in direct opposition to the commands of the Lord, and because of the leadership or organisational structure, there is no way to confront them (as Paul did for Peter - Gal.2:11-20). There is little to no accountability in such structures. We are repeatedly told that we are accountable, firstly to the Lord Himself, but also to our fellow believers. And rigid hierarchical structures remove this accountability.
Answering the question posed: No, authority and submission is not inherently flawed. But it should happen in line with the principles of the Kingdom of God (the least should be considered the greatest) and not according to the principles of the world where authority is based on position.Authority should be based on the fruit of the Spirit, the resemblance to Jesus Christ, the example as a follower of Jesus and evidence of an intimate relationship with Him, and not on an official position. Submission is required of and to everyone, not only to certain special leaders, and only insofar as their leadership brings us closer to the Lord Jesus Himself.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Why theology is not a science (and neither should it be)

We live in a time where science is held in an almost mystical reverence by many people (mostly non-scientists) and this is not new. The result has been that many academic fields that was originally not considered as "science", has either lost their respectable positions  (e.g. various arts, literature and even philosophy) or has tried to present themselves in a more "scientific" guise. This reverence for science (often without really understanding the strength and weaknesses of science) has many unfortunate consequences, including the lack of training by the majority of scientists in basic logic or the philosophy of science, the very presuppositions and assumptions on which all their scientific work is built. To be sure, I can do good science without thinking or understanding the principles on which my scientific method rests (yes, there is not just one "scientific method", in spite of what many scientists think). I simply need to know my own field and the methods used for research in my field.

But the most unfortunate consequence of this lack in philosophical background, has been the rise of "scientism", the belief that only knowledge based on some "science" can be true or worthwhile and that only that which can be investigated using "science" or scientific principles actually exists at all. Just a moment's thought will expose the fallacy of this idea. It means that mathematics (used extensively in all science, but not based on or scientifically proven), logic (used in science, but often also with glaring logic fallacies to be found in scientific publications due to the lack of a solid grounding in basic logic in most science undergraduate programs) the philosophy of science and epistemology (really the foundations of science), and all the historical fields (e.g. history, and archaeology, which do use some scientific tools like carbon dating, but is not and cannot really be called "science" in the modern sense, including the history of science itself) can no longer make any meaningful contribution to knowledge. Philosophy, ethics and theology all obviously becomes superfluous in this "modern scientific" world.

I have for the longest time considered modern "liberal" theology as simply an mask for unbelievers in the Christian community, the mask that hypocrites who no longer believe in Jesus or the God revealed through the Bible, used to hide their unbelief and to pretend to be "good Christians" so that their livelihood would not be under threat (since they are basically paid by the common, believing Christians). A way for them to still be able to call themselves "Christian" or "Christian scholar" or at least "theologian" or "biblical scholar" while simultaneously denying the very fundamentals of the Christians faith. However, I recently realised that at least originally, the early liberal theologians often had totally different motivations. It was for them an attempt to reach "modern" people who had a "scientific" worldview and could no longer believe in the supernatural and miraculous events found throughout the Bible. For them theology and even Christianity was not inherently based on the real existence of a living God and a Jesus who worked wonders or physically rose from the grave, but instead was all about the "ethics" or "spiritual insight" to be found in Christianity. Christianity for them was not about the person of Jesus the Christ, of Nazareth, but about a "historical Jesus" who was not really the Christ "of faith", but who did teach some timeless "truths" that meant that religion and theology was still relevant in the modern word. It was all about saving some kind of "Christianity" or the church and making it acceptable and believable to modern man. In a sense they acted out of love and loyalty, but not loyalty or love for the God and Jesus of the Bible; rather loyalty to the church and love of religion (and maybe their own positions in the religious structures). They tried to change theology to appear more "scientific", to be based on the same presuppositions as "science", so that in this way it could be relevant and meaningful to modern people. But also to a certain extent so that they would escape some of the disdain in which many of their colleagues in the new modern sciences were looking down on their area of expertise, their "queen of the sciences" having been dethroned. When I talk about "modern theology" here, I use the term in the way that Andrew Murray used it: the so-called "liberal theology" of the nineteenth century and its philosophical modern-day descendants, which includes most of "mainstream" theology taught in most (Dutch) reformed theology faculties in South African universities (see Die Moderne Teologie.pdf).

I have always maintained that if God (the God of the Bible) truly exists, He would in no way be the proper subject of science. He is the Creator of all nature, so there is no way that the methodologies and approach developed to investigate the natural world, would be appropriate or able to investigate a Person so great. He is claimed to be the Creator of all the "laws of nature" painstakingly being discovered by the natural sciences, so how does it make sense that He would Himself in any way be subject to the very laws that He created? Why should a methodology developed so that we can find these regularities in nature tell us anything about the Creator of these laws? The methods and assumptions of the natural sciences for investigating creation, are simply irrelevant to investigating the existence, nature and character of the Creator. Instead, historically the foundations of the natural sciences were based on the philosophical foundation of the God of the Bible (combined with Greek philisophy - Science is based on a foundation of logic, philisophy, mathematics and yes, even theology, rather than the other way round. The reason why the Christian worldview provided the basis for science is twofold:

  1. Christianity postulated that one single God, a God of order and laws, created all of nature and that therefore nature was subject to these laws. This was in contrast to polytheism that postulated different (often capricious) gods ruling over different parts of nature and often in opposition to each other, so that there was no reason to suppose that nature could be predicted using certain laws. This was also in contrast to ancient atheism which could provide not basis to suppose that nature would not simply be chaotic, with anything and everything simply the result of chance and randomness and no reason to presuppose laws of nature that can be used to predict how nature works.
  2. Christianity postulated that nature is just the creation of God and is in no way divine itself. This meant that we were free to investigate and study all aspects of nature in contrast to those religions that held that nature itself was divine and above us, so that as mere humans it would be irreverent to study nature as just an object. Because our God and Father had created nature, as Christians we were not only free, but actually encouraged to study his handiwork as a way to bring more glory to Him, the Creator.

I recently realised that there is another and very important way why modern "liberal" theology is not and should never be considered as a "science" or "scientific". While in science it is true that we "stand on the shoulders of giants", our current knowledge and new discoveries are based on the results of previous research, it is also a basic part of science that the foundations and previous claims are frequently re-examined and retested. And it is this aspect, the repeated experiments or retesting of current theories and hypotheses, that is lacking in modern theology. The "JEDP hypothesis" of the origins of the first 5 books of the Bible, which should have been rejected long ago based on archaeological and other evidence, is still with us in new and modern guises. The fact that we now know from the archaeology how ancient documents in the Near East were copied and changed by their copyists over time, and that this actual evidence shows absolutely nothing like the claimed process of the JEDP hypotheses, is simply ignored by most (all?) modern theologians. The typical feedback and re-examination of evidence that is so important for modern science, is simply absent. Instead, ever-more complex, new hypotheses are simply built on the foundations of previous hypotheses, with little or no new evidence and little or no examination of the basic foundations or assumptions themselves  - it gets refined and expanded, but the hypothesis itself is never seriously subjected to testing and compared to the alternatives. It is well-known by now in the history of religion, that nothing like the pseudo-evolutionary process of religious "development" originally proposed by theory behind the JEDP hypothesis ever occurred... this real, actual evidence is simply ignored in favour of a theoretical framework into which all evidence are simply pressed to fit or else just ignored. It is claimed that writing and literature could not exist in Israel before the existence of a sophisticated monarchy on theoretical grounds, and the actual evidence of literacy and development of alphabetical writing itself among Asiatic slaves and miners in Egypt, simply ignored! The one exception to this uncritical acceptance of theoretical claims without evidence, for which theologians no doubt congratulate each other, is the "traditional" supernatural viewpoint of the Bible as describing real events and a living God, active in history. This is the one hypothesis in theology where no punches are pulled and of which nobody can be sceptical enough. I have no problem with the fact that we should not be gullible in theology and examine everything critically... this approach is actually encouraged in the Bible ("But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;" - 1 Thess.5:21). What I am saying is that the major problem in modern theology is exactly that they do not critically examine everything. Only one hypothesis (that the God of the Bible actually exists as He is revealed in the Bible) is regularly subjected to critical examination, while the alternative hypotheses are not subjected to nearly the same level of scepticism. Modern theology is a pseudo-science, not primarily because it attempts to investigate a Person who would not legitimately be the object of scientific study if He truly exists, but because it is too eager to accept uncritically the alternative hypotheses and isolates itself from the many new discoveries in other fields (like archaeology) and its implications - See On the Reliability of the Old Testament. It pretends to be scientific while showing the same uncritical reverence for "science" that used to be shown for God, not understanding the methodology and limitations of science and evidence even in related fields like archaeology and history. Most importantly, it commonly accepts or illegitimately uses the argument from silence - if there is no external confirming evidence of an event, it is considered as evidence that it did not happen (there is a legitimate argument from silence, but again, there is little evidence that most theologians can distinguish between the two).

Science cannot investigate the supernatural. Its methods were developed to investigate and discover the laws of nature and the natural world, working according to unchanging and predictable laws. By pretending to be scientific in adopting naturalistic assumptions (that there is no super-natural or that we cannot investigate the supernatural), it adopts the weakness of science, but without the strength of science in being truly self-correcting when the evidence is in contradiction to our hypotheses or theories... this makes it a pseudo-science. If theology ever hopes to again be worthy of a title equal to "queen of the sciences", it should unapologetically recover the supernatural as part of its field of study, at least as a legitimate possibility to be investigated, and truly develop a new methodology by which various supernatural claims can be tested and examined carefully; holding fast and accepting only the good and rejecting all evil and falsehood.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Can we trust the Bible? 2

At the end of the blog asking about the inerrancy of the Bible (can-we-still-trust-the-bible), there is an appendix with a number of apparent contradictions in the Bible. While I am not going to answer them one-by-one, I am going to mention a few basic principles that can help us see why most "Biblical contradictions" are nothing of the sort.

  1. Almost every event described in the Bible will only tell what was considered as the most relevant facts. We never tell a story including every single detail. Realising that some facts have been omitted, will go a long way to understanding many apparent "contradictions".
  2. Different parts of the Bible sometimes confirm what is written elsewhere (without meaning to) by providing missing information.
  3. Sometimes we simply do not know what information is missing. This is not a good reason to claim "contradiction".
  4. Much of the Bible is poetry. We should not read poetry as prose. Many so-called "contradictions" are simply a matter of not reading something as the genre it was meant.
  5. There are common usage of hyperbole in the Bible. This is especially true in the Hebrew parts of the Bible. An example (which I read today) is where it claims that Joab killed all the males in Edom, and then explains in the same passage how Hadad, the son of the Edomite king with some of his father's servants escaped to Pharaoh Shisak. "All" is often used to refer to "almost all" or "most" or "all that matter" or "all that they could" (1 Kings 11).
  6. In the same way, when describing what a king did, it is often referring to what his people or his high officials did or implemented. The above passage does not mean that David himself (or even Joab, leader of his army) killed every single Edomite male. But this was never understood in this way and it is a misinterpretation of the Scriptures to read it as such.
  7. Time plays a role. When somebody did not do something immediately it is often recorded as "they did not do it". E.g the women not telling the other disciples about what they saw does not mean that they never ever told anybody about it (otherwise, how could Mark even record it as happening?)! The importance of time when something happened, is often ignored by those who claim ¨contradiction".
  8. Similarly, place plays a role. What happened at one place with one group of people did not happen elsewhere (with another group of people). This is another source of many claimed "contradictions".
  9. Sometimes the Bible focus on one person (or small group of persons) without implying that they were the only ones there or that all of them reacted or acted exactly the same.  As an example, I have a book describing some parts of the life of the missionary "Praying Hyde". In it one colleague (Dr. Chapman) describe in a letter a period of prayer that he spent with this John Hyde and how it impacted himself and his work. There is no mention of anybody else. Then, in the very next paragraph, another colleague (Mr. Charles M. Alexander), who worked together with Dr. Chapman, describe to John Hyde's sister that he was at that meeting as well and that it was almost a whole day. Then at the end of the meeting, they called in a whole team of fellow workers to pray together. Are these two accounts contradictory? I trust that most people will see that it is not. But the Bible is frequently treated differently.
  10. Numbers are often rounded up or down. Similarly for time. A common example is where an event took some time and one author would record the time of the beginning of the event and the other the end or middle of the event (e.g. when did the women come to the tomb of Jesus). And of course, they did not have cell phones or wristwatches for exact time keeping. 
  11. The Bible often do not tell things in chronological order, but in geographical or topical order. This is another frequent reason for claims of "contradiction".
  12. There are some cases of textual corruption in the Bible (but the fact that we can identify them, already tells us something). However, they do not change the meaning of what the Bible actually teaches and are often just a side-note. The only two significant passages of which I know, is John 8:1-11 and the longer ending of Mark 16. For both passages James Snapp Jr ( has made a fairly strong case to their authenticity.

Can we trust the Bible? 1

Questions for those who insist on inerrancy:
1. Where in the Bible does it state inerrancy is an essential of Christian faith?
The words of Jesus Himself (unless of course this record is in error) should be sufficient:
"For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished." (Matt.5:18)
"If He called them gods, men to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be undone or annulled or broken),"(John 10:35"
And that Scripture says:
"The words and promises of the Lord are pure words,
Like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times."(Psalm 12:6) and "So I will have an answer for the one who taunts me,
For I trust [completely] in Your word [and its reliability]. ...
 All Your commandments are faithful and trustworthy. 
They have persecuted me with a lie; help me [Lord]! ... 
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven [standing firm and unchangeable]."(Psalm 119:42, 86, 89)
Oh, but that does not include the New Testament? Paul was adamant that the gospel he proclaimed was not just his own: 
"And we also thank God continually for this, that when you received the word of God [concerning salvation] which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of [mere] men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is effectually at work in you who believe [exercising its inherent, supernatural power in those of faith]."(1 Thess.2:13)
So does Peter, quoting the Old Testament:
"But the word of the Lord endures forever.' And this is the word [the good news of salvation] which was preached to you." (1 Peter 1:25)
And Peter considered the writings of Paul as Scripture already:
"And consider the patience of our Lord [His delay in judging and avenging wrongs] as salvation [that is, allowing time for more to be saved]; just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him [by God], speaking about these things as he does in all of his letters. In which there are some things that are difficult to understand, which the untaught and unstable [who have fallen into error] twist and misinterpret, just as they do the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction."(2 Peter 3:15-16) "
This passage also answers the question about how we can have so many different interpretations of the Bible. Our hearts are deceitful and we often twist the meaning of the Scriptures in order for it to say what God did not mean at all.
In this context Jesus said: "Heaven and earth [as now known] will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Matt.24:35) ... if this does not refer to the written records of the words of Jesus, to what does it refer?
2. Did the early church have a Bible to believe was inerrant, or did they believe in the passion narrative and life of Jesus apart from sola scriptura?
How early? When they had the apostles living among them, they had the eyewitness testimony of the apostles themselves. But the apostles themselves depended on the truth and testimony of the Old Testament prophecies (and its fulfilment in Jesus) as a source of authority. Thereafter the church had the writings of the apostles (and of course the Old Testament throughout).
3. Did God give us a book to have a relationship with Him? If the Bible is the sole foundation for Christian thought and worldview, why is it so ambiguous that it could take a team of lawyers to read it, and still disagree on its meaning?
Yes, He gave as a book so that we can test the spirits. So that we can evaluate any teaching in the light of what He has already revealed. So that we can be equipped: "All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honourably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim.3:16-17). Is the Bible truly so ambiguous? Or is it too often ourselves who are looking for loopholes (like lawyers so often do) to avoid the full implications of what it teaches? Again, the Scripture itself teaches us that He also gave us the Holy Spirit to interpret it correctly. "So we have the prophetic word made more certain. You do well to pay [close] attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and light breaks through the gloom and the morning star arises in your hearts. But understand this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of or comes from one’s own [personal or special] interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." (2 Pet.1:19-21) The reason why we so often disagree about the meaning of Scripture is exactly because we think it is a matter of one's own interpretation.
4. Have you ever changed your views on a perfectly orthodox article of faith? If you were wrong about one view, and right, or more justified in the other view, how can scripture be inerrant when you held several legitimate views on the same set of biblical texts? I realize the claim is that it is the text that is inerrant, not the interpretation, but how is strict inerrancy maintained when so many theories about the same passages can be legitimately held?
What is a "perfectly orthodox article of faith"? If it is anything that would influence my salvation by Jesus Christ, then no, I have never had to change my views on this. Yes, I have learned a lot more about what it implies to know and follow Jesus, since I first believed in Him, that I did not know in the beginning. And yes, there has been many peripheral issues about which I was wrong (and some about which I am still not sure that I have it correct). How is it possible if the Bible is inerrant? Because we should use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Even from a purely human viewpoint we know that later Biblical authors considered those who wrote before as authoritative and it is reasonable that they knew the previously existing Scriptures. So they would not then on purpose write something to contradict previous revelations. What they would do, is to correct some wrong interpretation of previous Scriptures. In my case, I did not know the Scriptures well enough to always tell which interpretation does not clash with what is said elsewhere. And in my experience, almost every misinterpretation or false teaching (including some that I believed) was based on taking some passages out of context and not taking into account the whole Bible.
5. Is certainty a necessary condition for believing something is true? Consider other good beliefs we have in other matters and your certainty in them.
Faith in God is based on trust. If He is not trustworthy, I would not have faith in Him. And yes, I have to be certain that I can trust Him in order to believe that what He says is true.
6. Do you believe in Jesus because you have the Bible, or do you trust the Bible because you trust Jesus?
I trust the Bible because I trust Jesus (and the claims that He makes in the Bible). However, I would have no idea who Jesus is, except through the Bible. And if the Biblical record is not trustworthy and true, then who is it that I trust? My own idea of who Jesus is? Like the Jesus seminar always creating a new "Jesus" that fits with what I want Him to be? Not who He truly was and is! But let me continue with this line of argument... It is not necessary to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible to come to faith in Jesus. I only have to accept that the Bible is a reasonably trustworthy revelation of who Jesus was. But once I believe in Him and becomes his follower (a Christian), I also follow his teaching on the authority of the Scriptures. And then I do trust the Bible as the word of God and therefore inerrant. It is in the faithfulness and reliability of God that my trust in the inerrancy of the Bible is based.
7. If the Bible is perfect, what role does the Holy Spirit play in the formation of our faith?
Everything! The Holy Spirit is the One who originally inspired the Bible. And I can only understand the Bible through Him (2 Pet.1:19-21). But I can and should (1 John 4: 1 & 6) test the spirits to see that it is in agreement with what the Holy Spirit has revealed before (in the Scriptures). If not, I must reject it as not being from the Holy Spirit at all.