Faith > Bible?

Something Adam Hamilton wrote recently about the Bible reminded me of William J. Abraham’s counsel at the end of his little book The Bible: Beyond the Impasse.

At the outset let me say this categorically. If losing your current understanding of scripture will lead you to abandon your faith, then I would insist that you should absolutely hold on to the vision of scripture you currently embrace. From a Christian point of view, nothing is more disastrous than the loss of faith. So if your theory of the Bible is integral to your having faith in the first place, then stick to your theory.

And he goes the other way as well.

I would say equally categorically that if holding to the inerrancy of scripture leads you to lose your faith, then you should not hesitate to stick with your faith and look for a much better way to think of its nature and use.  … What matters is coming to know and love God; theories of scripture are secondary and should be treated accordingly. So if your theory of the Bible gets in the way of knowing and loving God, go find a better one.

8 thoughts on “Faith > Bible?

  1. Hmmm. What are your thoughts on the second move? My initial reaction is to ask: What is the faith that is being “saved” if not rooted in the truth of Scripture? If I will not accept the revealed God of Scripture, am I saving anything of real value?

    1. You raise a good question, Chad. I find myself asking the same one, but I did remember his point while reading that blog. There is a shared concern that people drop their faith when the things they believe about the Bible become a crisis. I am tempted to say we are treading in the area of an obedience issue.

        1. I would qualify my first response, however, to say my understanding of inspiration remains within the bounds of the UMC Articles and Confession. All things necessary to salvation are in the scriptures and they are our final authority on matters of faith and practice. Young earth creationism and whether Russell Crowe saved all the animals two-by-two and the like do not seem central to me. I tend to view them as indifferent.

  2. Allow me to use a chemical educational analogy – many people can do chemistry problems because they have a set of algorithms that enable them to solve the problems that they face. However, they run into difficulties when they are faced with a problem for which they do not have an algorithm to use. Piaget would call this concrete thinking.

    On the other hand, if someone truly understands chemistry, they can use their knowledge to solve problems that they have never encountered. Piaget labeled this as abstract thinking.

    Now, I know quite a few people who can quote Scripture without difficulty (and do so far better than I ever could). Does that mean that they understand what they are saying? Some may but I don’t think that many do. And in the end, the ability to quote Scripture as the answer to a problem is not always the best answer.

    Faith comes from understanding the scripture and, if you will, internalizing it so that it is part of you. My own faith in Christ had to come first from the Scriptures because I had no other source of information. But right now, my faith is more than just the Scriptures, of having Christ in my own life and not just words on a page somewhere.

    I think that those who find their faith totally in the Scriptures might have problems when faced problems that haven’t already been determined.

    1. I think this is helpful. I think so long as we remain rooted in the Scriptures, that they are primary. We must not “neglect the deposit of faith” entrusted to us, nor go beyond what is written (1 Cor. 4:6). 1 Timothy 4 and 6 seems to offer helpful guidance, recognizing that many will wish to go beyond what has been handed down to them and depend instead on their own “knowledge and understanding.” We must constantly be on guard against watering down the wisdom of God with the wisdom of this world, and the only way I know to do that is stay rooted in Scripture and have accountability around me who speak truth into my life.

    2. I agree with your point, although I suspect we disagree about what it means to “find their faith totally in the Scriptures.” I agree that a dead faith consisting of sterile knowledge is not the kind that will sustain itself in the face of challenge and trial. But I also think no amount of creativity and experience will ever unmake the truth that NaCl dissolves in H20.

      1. John,
        I think your description of “dead faith” is the term that I was looking for. And you are correct – it is a basic truth tat salt will dissolve in water. The creativity comes with what you do with that knowledge. Our faith should challenge us to find ways to bring Christ to the world.

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