Is The Bible Inerrant? Is It True? My Story Of Growing Up With The Bible And Then Meeting Jesus
The past few days I have been participating in a forum discussion about how one views and interacts with the Bible. I was going to post on the forum about my own history as a Christian, and how I’ve interacted with the Bible through my life, but I decided to write this hub instead.
I love the Bible. I am always finding new things which speak to me about my life, about the way people behave, about history, about the nature of God. I see the world through the prism of the Bible. But it is not the foundation of my spiritual life.
When I was a child, my favorite books were a set of twelve volumes called “The Bible Story.” These were children’s books going through the Old and New Testaments, with lots of detail, plus colorful pictures. Great stuff: narrow escapes from death, miracles, futuristic dreams, battles, prophets, kings. As a result, I was introduced to an entirely different world. In suburban Pennsylvania, in the midst of hundreds of little boxes made of ticky-tacky, my head was full of ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome. I think this stretched my developing mind, and forever after made me able to put myself into other people’s shoes. One result was I never experienced the distain and distrust for other cultures common in middle class America of the time.
I won’t say I was a Christian as a child, just because I liked exotic stories. I became a Christian at age fourteen. It was a time of tremendous stress: I left the alcoholic bipolar single mother who raised me, because I could no longer stand the sheer insanity of life with her. But what to do next? I felt lost and very frightened: then Jesus showed up. By day I could feel Him walking alongside me, keeping me company, watching over me. At night He enveloped me. How did I know this unseen presence was Jesus? I have no answer to that. I just knew.
So I figured I was now a Christian, since Jesus Himself was my best friend. And so I took myself off to church, since that’s what Christians do, and I began to read the Bible. Now a few interesting things happened. As I read the text of the Bible for the first time, I realized the stories from my childhood weren’t just simplified for kids: they emphasized some details, left others out, and sometimes threw in conclusions absent from the original. They were versions. And even then, I began to realize that much of what one was told in church was a version. It didn’t bother me – everyone had a perspective, and of course each person would be giving their point of view. Just like the rest of life.
Another thing that happened, was people began to package my conversion story. In the beginning, when people asked me how I became a Christian I would repeat exactly what happened, my awareness of Jesus’ presence, how He affected me. I would talk about the fear and confusion that assailed me, how I would hide myself to cry because I was afraid to show weakness, how He calmed me down. He understood me, and because He was unafraid I was not overcome by fear. Now He was my great friend, the guide for my life. This all had the merit of being true. The problem, I was told, was my story needed to be “biblical.” They were the experts, so I dutifully scanned through the New Testament with some help from a concordance, found verses that supported different bits, and presented my story with Bible verses plugged in. In those days I told the story that way because it pleased my new compatriots in the faith. But at this point in my life, I just tell what happened to me. I read the Bible quite a bit, it is in my mind, in my heart, and in my life, and I feel no need to quote it. I feel like I practically breathe it.
My conversion was visceral. I encountered the Living God. I did not begin this because of something I read, but because of something I experienced. I can’t prove it by reciting a passage; then again, I don’t need to prove it. I live it. As far as I can tell, Jesus gathered disciples during his life the same way He got me. He showed up, and they recognized Him. When Jesus met Nathanael, He said, “I saw you sitting under the fig tree,” and Nathanael responded, “Rabbi, you are the son of God! You are the king of Israel!” One can hardly think the mention of a tree would get this kind of reaction. Nathanael must have recognized, in a visceral way, who Jesus was.
A good deal of the back and forth on the religious forums involves some posters stating that the Bible has various flaws, and others protesting that it does not. On and on they go, and one has yet to convince the other of a thing. Myself, I find this irrelevant. I figured out a long time ago that few people find the Bible fascinating the way I do, and some actively dislike it for the primitive and violent cultures it portrays. Maybe if I had come to it as an adult I would have reacted differently, but events in the Bible, including the violent ones, were part of the landscape of my childhood. They shaped both my intellect and my emotions, and I think for the better.
I’m not a Christian because of the Bible. Had I not met Jesus the way I did, the information I had about the Bible would have remained just that: information. My life with Him isn’t built on the Bible being inerrant, or the Bible having no contradictions, or anything of that nature. I think the Bible reflects life: it is interesting, it is baffling, it has dichotomies, it can look different on different days. I do think the Bible is the sacred scripture God gave us. I certainly trust it, and ponder over it. I just don’t expect it to be simple. It wouldn’t be much good to us if it was.
Wikipedia defines Mysticism as “the phenomenon of having a unique experience of communion with God.” This describes my life as a Christian pretty well. It’s always been driven by that experience of communion. I think there are a lot of people like me in Christianity, who are there because of an intensely personal event with Jesus. I know the rhetoric of the church can lay emphasis on, “Because the Bible says so! We do what the Bible says!” But I’m not convinced that all or even most are there because of something they read. I think more are there because of Someone they met.
It’s just a thought, but I wonder if the fact that my spiritual life doesn’t rest on the foundation of the Bible leaves me free to enjoy the scriptures.
More Links About the Bible
- ‘Inerrancy’ is not a victimless crime
The problems inerrancy poses to following God.
- Can Women Speak In Church: The Apostle Paul And Wome...
Some different ways of looking at what Paul says about women
- Speaking In Tongues: Research & Personal Experience
My personal story of two decades of a spiritual practice spoken of in the Bible, a practice whose reputation has suffered much from snakehandlers, TV evangelists, and a host of well intentioned but misguided persons.
- Evolution And Creationism: A Personal Side To The De...
Another personal story, regarding the Bible.
- 4 Books About Heaven: Akiane, Colton Burpo, And Othe...