|Series Theme: Can I Believe the Bible|
Title: 2. The Significance of the Bible
A series that explains what the Bible is and why we can trust it.
If you do not consider yourself to be a Christian then it may not be important to you how different people view the complete Bible. However if you are someone who is seeking to find out just what Christianity is all about, then you may find it helpful to think about how people view it.
If you are someone who observes the different opinions apparently being expressed by different Christians, this page may help you understand just WHY it is that they differ, and that in turn may help you to draw your own more informed conclusions.
2. Differing Views about the Bible
Views about the Bible could perhaps be categorised as:
a) Uninformed Opinion
Uninformed opinion is that which knows very little about:
Uninformed opinion therefore makes silly comments about the Bible and sees it as "just another book".
If you've read the first page in this series, you'll have seen, in the testimony of the writer there, the assertion that many people are unexcited by the Bible because they've never read it.
A starting place, therefore, is to actually start finding out what is actually in the book! These pages on this site should go a long way to helping you, if you genuinely are seeking.
b) Educated Opinion
We use the term 'educated opinion' to mean informed opinion, i.e. opinion that comes from finding out the three things above, and then coming to conclusions.
The more people read the Bible and the more people find out about how the Bible came into being, the more they come to the conclusion that the last thing the Bible is, is "just another book".
Perhaps a spectrum of views about the Bible for those with an educated opinion, might go like this:
1. A pretty amazing collection.
2. An inspired collection of imperfect writings
3. An inspired collection of perfect writings.
3. The Significance of these Views
If you subscribe to the first of the educated opinion views above, then you will say, "Well, yes, they are a pretty amazing set of documents but we can't consider them accurate records of the divine experience, and we can't consider them as authorities for beliefs today." In other words, we won't be able to say, "Well God says it, so we ought to do it!"
If our reading and investigations lead us to subscribe to either the second or third of those opinions, then we are likely to be able to say, "I believe God says this, therefore this is what we ought to be doing."
(Yes, we recognise that this does assume or accept the existence of God).
The real significance of all of this comes to light when there are major differences of opinion about ethical standards being debated in the church, or in the world at large when Christians are involved.
An example of this in the early part of the twenty first century was the debate over ordination of women in church, or the question of homosexuality, and more particularly ordaining so-called 'gay clergy'.
Ultimately the arguments can be rationalised (in the reverse order to those noted above) to:
3. "The Bible says clearly this is right and that is wrong!"
2. "The Bible says something about it but is not definitive!"
1. "It doesn't matter what the Bible says!"
4. The Difficulties that Arise
Why the difference between 2 and 3? Those in camp no. 3 here, are clear that what the Bible clearly says is what should go.
Those in camp no. 2 here, either tend actually to demote the authority of the Bible in their thinking because in reality they see it as a fallible document, or because they interpret it in ways that demote its authority.
An example of this would be those who suggest that New Testament teaching, say, is culturally tainted and so we cannot apply what applied in that historical culture to our very different modern culture.
(We suggest there needs to be a recognition of the difference between illustrations that used that culture to make a point, and principles that span all cultures - see later pages in this series).
Behind most moral debates today that involve Christians, we should realise, is the debate over the authority of the Bible.
Certain parts of the Christian church rely upon the authority of a traditional institution, the history behind it, and then the Bible. Others of us rely upon Scripture alone.
Non-believers have to rely upon other more flexible things as their authority: so-called common sense, or modern cultural norms, or what is "PC" (see the 'Difficult Questions' area of this site for the validity of that!).
5. And so for you?
So what is the standard that YOU use when seeking to decide what you believe is right or wrong? (Don't be too hasty with your answer!)
Your answer, at the moment, isn't important. The point we simply seek to make here, as we consider the following pages, or as we consider the ethical debates that are raised in the media, is that the Bible is a vital ingredient for some people.
These people would claim to be of the "educated opinion" group. They claim that the Bible is THE best reference to guide us. The pages that follow give reasons why that may not be such a bad position to hold.
We hope you will enjoy these pages and find them helpful.