The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is All Scripture equally valid for us?

I am consolidating this discussion on the Bible’s nature from Bibliologly here. Evangelicals take Scripture seriously and understandably desire to affirm that it all provides true teaching. Yet I sense that what often fosters openness to a universal hope is seeing that the values Jesus affirms takes precedence in how we understand what is central and abiding in the rest.

Thus I submit for evaluation my sympathetic two page case that Jesus provocatively challenged the not unfounded understandings of Scripture among the devout in God’s own religion.

Grace be with you,
Bob Wilson
Case against Jesus.doc (37 KB)

Yes, Dr. Wilson, obviously not all Scripture is equally valid for us. In my opinion, if we carry out the following injuctions, we not only act immorally, but in Canada or the U.S.A., we would have to face the legal consequences of carrying them out.

*If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21

If two men fight together, and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him, and puts out her hand and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; your eye shall not pity her. Deuteronomy 25:11,12*

Very provocative, Dr. Bob! It’s got me thinking a million thoughts per minute…

Suberb work Bob and much appreciated!
I am more and more convinced that I and others have made an idol out of the writings even to the point of calling the scriptures (though what canon I’ve no idea!) “The Word of God”.
I have no doubt that, when enlivened by the Spirit, a text may become ‘the Word of God’ for an individual, and the scriptures are a precious possession, but are they the final authority? Sola Scriptura?
Very thought provoking.
I’ll save a copy if you don’t mind
God bless

Pilgrim, maybe instead of sola scriptura it should be sola amor (love)! :smiley: I think it would be a better fit with the bible.

Bob; is this a revision of the paper, or is it the same one? (I have an older copy I downloaded some time ago.)

Great list, Bob! Thank you for making this available. It’s amazing how many Christians just pick and choose which Scriptures are applicable and which aren’t…we definitely need a “Jesus hermeneutic”…

Being finite, we can know nothing of God unless he graciously reveals himself to us. “God exists in unapproachable light. None have seen him, nor can he be seen.” Christ, not the Bible, is the living, infallible and inerrant Word of God, the visible image of the invisible God.

I believe God guided the hands and minds of those who wrote, re-worked, edited and compiled the Bible, and that it does precisely what God wants it to do. The Bible is good for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” However, I do not believe it is good for training in Cosmology, Biology, Plumbing or Motor Mechanics, and those who try to use it in such manner do the Christian cause great mischief… As Galileo famously quipped, the Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.

I love this Lewis quote: “I take it that the whole Old Testament consists of the same sort of material as any other literature—chronicle (some of it obviously pretty accurate), poems, moral and political diatribes, romances, and what not; but all taken into the service of God’s word. … The total result is not “the Word of God” in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message.” (Reflections on the Psalms: Ch 11)

Mel, yes, this should be the same notes as previously posted under Bibliolgy. Thanks to all for the reactions. I’m glad it can serve to stimulate further thought on challenging questions.

Allan, I’m especially struck by the Lewis idea that the key is to steep ourself ultimately in its’ “overall message.” That captures much of what I see as the challenge. Of course, the variety of views will bring the charge of subjectivity as to what its’ ultimate message is, but I see no way around the need for each person to immerse themself in its’ great narrative and ask God to speak to them. I have no doubt that they will be enriched in ways that matter.

I think I’d agree with the need to see the big picture. We need to avoid the mistake the Pharisees made of not recognizing Jesus for who he is, because we’re too busy looking at the individual trees and miss seeing the forest.

I depends what you mean by “equally”. And “valid”. :slight_smile:

Good point, Roofus. I think I mean something like, reasonably understood, does it all provide an equally dependable basis for what we should believe and do? Is that a bit clearer? How would you define the issue of its’ authority?

I definitely see it as authoritative, absolutely so. I guess that I would say that whatever truth is intended by God to be imparted by each part of it is binding.

Roofus, most everybody wants to say that their view sees the Bible as “authoritative,” but it begs the question of how that functions. It seems to just knock it back to hanging on what you think “whatever truth is intended by God to be imparted” means. Couldn’t I just assume that that is equivalent to whatever interpretation I have offered concerning its’ lasting meaning? I.e. it’s nicely orthodox, but it just seems to circumvent the hard questions about the nature of the text and how to use and apply it. It just seems to me that in actual practice, even the most conservative don’t treat every text as “equally valid” for them. Thus it’s unavoidable to wrestle with the choices we are making when we emphasize some ideas more than others.

Hey Bob,
I had been thinking for the last month about the idea that “God cannot look upon sin” because he is holy. I’d heard that a million times in my life and for some reason it just stuck in my head that Jesus, who was the representative of “what God was doing” on earth (if you have seen me you have seen the father; I only do what I see my father doing), was looking on our sin all of the time. Full time actually. In fact, he grew to really love these disciples of his (disciples in generic form, including Martha, Mary, Lazarus, etc.), and even had some favorites (the disciple whom Jesus loved); and this while they were yet not cleansed by his death on the cross. I’m not saying that to diminish the sinfulness of sin. For some reason it was just sticking in my brain. I couldn’t explain it. So then I went in search for the verse that is always quoted and found it in Habakkuk chapter 1, verse 13 “13 Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor On those who deal treacherously? Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up Those more righteous than they?” But, is this statement true? When you look at the text it in Habakkuk complaining to God. He is making several statements about God and many of them are wrong! They are part of his complaint that is not entirely accurate. Now the scriptures don’t tell us if he is accurate there or not, but I think that the actions of Jesus on earth do tell us that Habakkuk was NOT accurate because Jesus looked upon us all the time. Also, God went looking for Adam in the garden after he sinned.

Anyhow, I brought this up in response to your question about validity. Obviously, not all scriptures are created equal. What do you think?

I think this cliche is thought to be quoting Scripture when it just offers an unfounded interpretation. The ‘parrallel’ you offer in Habakkuk seems to say that God doesn’t look on evil with approval, not that he can’t look at it at all, or even sometimes approach sinners as in Jesus’ case with mercy. Isn’t Habakkuk complaining precisely that God has looked at his sinful opponents too generously?

I fear this cliche sounds Biblical especially because of a misinterpretation of Jesus’ quote of Psalm 22 about David’s feeling “forsaken” (even though the Psalm plainly declares that he really wasn’t). But it is assumed that Jesus meant that God’s wrath turned his presence away from Jesus because he was bearing our sin. Of course such questioning of penal substitution raises the also controversial question of interpreting the atonement, but I may be too iconoclastic already:)

That’s exactly what I was thinking! I said to my wife that people assumed that the father turned his back on Jesus because he “couldn’t look upon his sin” when that is the only place in the bible that it says that (that God can’t look upon sin) AND it is in Habakkuk’s complaint, in which he is not entirely correct in what he says. Whatever Jesus meant when he uttered those words, I can’t really see how God could turn his back upon himself. In a perfect trinitarian relationship I don’t even know how that is possible, or what it even means. I think we are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too guilty of assuming that we know and understand much more than we really do. I tell you, as I get older, and I have been studying the bible for 42 years, I feel like I know less and less about that book, even though I have learned a lot over the years. I am less sure of things that I used to be absolutely sure about. But I’m OK with that because it’s God’s Spirit who sees to it that we understand what we need to and I trust that He will.

P.S. You went to Fuller – do you reside in Southern California ? (you don’t have to answer that if privacy is important - I’d understand) I live in Orange County.

God would have to be looking on our sin anyway if we are correct in that He is omnipresent. I think it’s safe to say He is, because even physics tells us that light intersects all points in the universe simultaneously from its own perspective.

This should also influence our notions of hell as a state, rather than a place.

Yes, we live in the Chino, Ontario area, and yes I too find that the more I learn, the more I realize how little I really know!


I can’t express just how much this short essay meant to me. Dirtboy, I totally resonate with you. I too believe now that most Christians are claiming to understand things, none of us really have a grasp of. This paper really is a challenge to all Christians as to how they apply their hermeneutics. It is, along side of Talbott’s book, one of the pieces that has helped me to realize just how little I truly understand. So in a sense, I believe it’s helped me to make corrections to things I CLAIMED to know when really I was just reiterating what I had been taught.

You’re point about God looking upon Sin is a great point . One verse that always struck me when I heard Christians quote it (and I could be wrong) is when they quote Isaiah saying our righteousness is as filthy rags. What I had come to find is that God was telling Isreal that their hypocrasy was the righteousness that was the filthy rags. If they were doing God’s will that’s not filthy rags to God, it’s what he created us for, according to Paul. I think you are right about God looking upon sin. It’s as if through the story of mankind, God has revealed that he does love his son; the bible is screaming this out to me. And I think you’re point is EXACTLY a part of that.