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The Puzzlement of the Bible – Four Different Views

June 18, 2014

The other day I began participating in an interesting exchange on another blog about how to view and treat the Bible.  These days, there are a number of places, on the Internet and off, where intelligent and civil conversations on this are going on!  Yes! … If you’ve not seen this, I encourage some exploration.

So often we see unproductive arguments, even rancor or name-calling. But I see an increasing number of people who are doing some real thinking and productive talking about the Bible.  This particular blog and this post within it is one such place. It’s a good article and you can see the interaction of which I’ve been a part (here).

Here is most of my comment from there, presenting my understanding of 4 views – positions I regularly read about.  But seldom are they laid out in simple groupings like this and then briefly analyzed.  (Not that there aren’t other ways to group and contrast views):

Anyway, as to ways to view and treat our canonical Scripture, I will suggest a crude categorization into 4 “groups” (many won’t fit neatly into any of them, but for analysis sake):
1) Unique, “unchallengeable” authority via exclusive, “special” revelation
2) “Special” revelation in a qualified sense with other “revelations” considered similarly
3) Simply a condensation, compilation of developing human conceptions of truth, with a qualified human authority
4) No particular authority – entirely human and of “primitive” thinking now transcended (“secular humanism” or “pure naturalism” view)

Now, let’s apply this to the many discussions of biblical authority, historical accuracy and such, beyond just here on this thread: People from group 1 are prone to try to convince people or counter arguments from all 3 other groups, but their major enemy is group 4, because this is seen as the bottom of a “slippery slope” (either-or, dualistic thinking).

Conversely, group 4 folks (generally atheists) are mostly reacting to group 1… seeing them as the main threat to rationalism, evolutionary theory, etc. In my view, this entire interchange, both directions, is seriously boring and a waste of time…. Hardly anybody gets swayed by either groups’ arguments.

The important and interesting discussions take place mostly between positions 2 and 3, in my view, as they are here. I’ve already labeled group 4… Group 1 would be mainly historical orthodoxy and Evangelicalism. Group 2 is basically Process theology and related “Progressive Christian” views. Group 3 is “old line” liberalism and its carry-over for some contemporary liberal Christians.

After long being in group 1 and flirting quite a while with #3 without ever “buying” it because it is overly rationalistic, I’m pretty solidly in group 2 and presume I’ll remain there, with continuing nuances in my position over time. Process theology provides, to me, the best foundation, philosophically and in biblical terms, on which to base a serious but not literal or exclusive reading of Scripture. And this comes particularly into play with the Gospels and understanding the historical and theological Jesus… NOT a simple subject.

How do you look at the Bible? Can you place yourself within one of the four groups? (Not that you’d want to claim #1 or #4 “in front of” me, now that I’ve trashed them.) 😉 

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