It’s an age old human quest: we are constantly seeking the “truth”. The difference these days, however, seems to be that the definition of “truth” is every bit as elusive as “truth” itself. Truth has become a very personalized commodity: my “truth” may not be the same as yours, as though it were a custom-made suit tailored specifically to each of us. If it doesn’t fit, we trade it in for one that does.
As distressing as that line of reasoning may be, it becomes even more so when spoken by those who claim to be Christian. Relative truth used to be the explanation for why Christianity was divided into so many different denominations; we “agreed to disagree” on issues of salvation and practice, but we convinced ourselves we were all members of Christ’s church even though each had a different interpretation of the Truth. However, it has become something much broader and darker.
Lately I been involved in several discussions about why the Bible is inaccurate, contradictory and full of errors, being written by human authors. These “discussions” (really more of a one-sided lecture about how I am wrong to unquestioningly believe the Bible, which makes me unenlightened, bigoted and close-minded) have been with believers from whom I never expected to hear such views. So I sincerely ask the question: are they wrong, am I wrong, or are we both incorrect in our thinking? I believe there is only one answer.
There are others who have answered this question more effectively than I can. I would recommend Focus Press as an excellent starting place; C.S. Lewis also discussed this in his wonderful book Mere Christianity. This blog entry is a expression of my personal beliefs, with the hope that the logic behind them is sound .
I begin with some underlying assumptions. There is absolute truth, it is knowable and is the standard by which all beliefs and actions must be judged. God is Truth, and He is holy, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good and all-loving. He is the creator of all things, and He desires relationship with us as well as our submission and worship. The Bible is the revealed word of God that is complete, accurate and provides clear instruction on matters of salvation, worship and how man is to relate to God and each other. If the reader is unwilling or unable to grant these assumptions for the sake of the discussion, then I hope you will continue reading, but there is probably not much hope we can find common ground.
The universalist point of view holds there are many avenues to find our way to the truth that is God. There is no superiority of one religion over the other, as each religion is equally valid, and everyone will eventually be reconciled with God, however they conceptualize him, her or it. Even if one accepts that Christianity is the only true religion, some argue that all Christians are headed for the same destination, just traveling by different roads. Among those who consider themselves Christian, there generally isn’t much argument that God exists, that He loves us and desires a relationship with us, and that He sent His son Jesus Christ to die in order to make the relationship possible. The points of disagreement are about our requirements for initiating the relationship and the requirements of the relationship once established.
In our era of tolerance and moral relativity, the method chosen by many believers to ‘get along’ has been to question the authority of the Bible. They claim there are contradictions and errors in Scripture, introduced intentionally or otherwise by human authors. Certain parts are accepted as valid (the words of Jesus which agree with current agendas), while others are questioned or rejected (the writings of Paul are ‘his own opinions’, and therefore carry less, or no, authority). Scripture is measured against our ‘truth’, rather than the other way around. The result is a God of our own creation, based on parts of Scripture that we deem as “true”. This gives us license to determine how we will choose to worship (or indeed, whether we will worship at all), and to live our lives as we see fit while still being able to rationalize we are in proper relationship to God.
If indeed we serve a God that is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-just, it is logical to believe he is capable of assuring that His message to mankind as recorded in the Bible was accurate and complete, even using imperfect human transcriptionists. Furthermore, if He is truly holy and perfect in justice, it is also logical to believe He would provide clear, specific instructions about being in relationship with Him, and the penalty for failing to do so. If He is the all-powerful God who created us with a mere word, He has the right and authority to define the rules of engagement with Himself, and demand that we follow them, at the same time showing His perfect love by providing the Way that we cannot provide ourselves, through his grace.
Unless the Bible is completely true, it is utterly false and we serve a false god. We either accept the Bible as written or we reject it entirely, but it is never an option to “cherry pick” scripture to fit our concept of God, right and wrong, and ‘fairness’. If we claim to speak for God, we should at least have the courtesy of using all of His words.