White Horse Inn Blog

Know what you believe and why you believe it

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Defend the Faith - "Can the Bible be Trusted?"

Posted by on in General
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 213
  • 22 Comments
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print



Michael Horton recently sat down and answered five of the most common apologetics questions people get when they share their faith with their friends and family. We’ll be posting one each week through the end of the year. For more information on our Defend the Faith campaign and for additional resources to help you “know and share what you believe and why you believe it,” please visit the homepage of our year end appeal.
0

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0
Your comments are subjected to administrator's moderation.
terms and condition.

People in this conversation

Load Previous Comments
  • David wrote: "Be happy to, I will do this weekend when I have more time. For now though , I’d like to know if you have read and pondered any of the works I mentioned?"

    GW: Thanks, David. Regarding your question, I have read portions of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, but don't pretend to be an expert on them. (Are you?) I have also read portions of (and works related to) ancient Near Eastern mythological texts such as the "Enuma Elish." No, I have not read Smith's Anthology (thanks for recommending it). While not claiming to be an expert, I am aware of "parallels" between ancient pagan mythological texts and portions of the Scriptures. I don't believe such parallels invalidate the claims of Scripure or prove the literary or worldview dependency of Scripture upon such pagan parallels (a view that some have called "parallelomania"). Indeed, seems to me the differences stand out more than the similarities.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - David

    Uh, no, I'm not an expert. , not sure y you thought it necessary to ask that in parenthesis ? Anyhow , I will be glad to address your last couple of posts this weekend when I have time. By the way, I am a believer in the theological truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself. So I'm not attacking the veracity of the theological or existential claims of what scripture testifies to.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - david

    first of all, and for now, yes i am very much aware of where guys like Wright, Warfield and Bauckham teach/taught. and i am very much aware of their credentials. i have read their works widely, as well as many others. and yes i have read their works fairly, i once was fully on board with their perspective, i mean fully on board. I still hold much of what they say and teach in high regard, but obviously disagree with a few things. no biggie there, we all, ( even the prestigious experts), still see through a glass darkly. but what i have come to understand is that the perspectives of fella's like them, are basically sophisticated attempts to shore up a more or less literalistic basically straightforward rendereing and approach to the understanding of what's in scripture. ( and yes i'm very familiar with many other of the experts work too, such as W.L. Craig, Craig Blomberg, etc, etc.).
    the issue as i see it, as i have learned from the works of many biblical scholars, doctors of divinity, and religious professors, is that to affirm a less than straightforward historical, and literal approach to scripture, is NOT to be affirming the non-reliability of it's theological, spiritual, existential meaning/message. ( and yes i realize that guys like Wright, Bauckham, etc, have varying degrees of literalness in their understanding of things scriptural). but the basic point is that one need not get their feathers ruffled anytime someone says that the bible has "myth" in it, as if "myth" automatically means false, fairy tale, and fake.
    "scripture" can still be reliable and still very much be communicating Solid absolute Theological, spiritual truth, even if it is using less than straightforward historical exactness to do so. just one simple example for now: when the bible talks of God having wings or of God walking in the garden, we surely recognize this as "mythological" language of the ancients as they spoke of the gods, and though the OT uses this "medium" of communication, and we of course don't take it literally, we don't then doubt that it is still teaching something very real and very true- namely that God is active in human affairs and that God is not aloof, but that he is everywhere to be found as he is omnipresent and so forth. i will post more a bit later in continuance to the last couple of posts you had prior to this one of mine

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - david

    from earlier, why do i put scripture in quotes? because "scripture" is sometimes treated in almost superstitious ways.

    next, parallels- i agree that some of the mythological parallels do not invalidate "scripture" truths. never said they did. and i agree that they don't prove the dependency of scriptural authors upon those "parallels". never said that either. to uphold that the bible communicates via the forms of its cultural milieu, is to say that it utilizes some (or many?) of those forms, some or many of which may be "mythological" or semi so, but to say that it utilizes, is NOT to be asserting that it depends upon (the old copy cat theory surely is way too simplistic).
    My point is that the biblical authors (oral preservers prior to written preservation?) couched alot of what they were saying and meaning by telling their special message in thought forms of their day. they are utilizing these, in order to press home their theological message(s).
    this is NOT to say that there is no historical reality to it, because it is entirely possible that historical realities can be communicated non-literalistically via symbolism, poetry, "myth" and so forth. "myth" does NOT necessarily mean false.

    Virgin birth, miracles, resurrection ? virgin birth story can still be communicating something very real and true even if understood to be a "mythological" construct of its time. the story, does not have to be understood in a straightforward literalistic way as if the only way God could have a sinless Jesus was to have a gynecological miracle occur. understood as a "mythological" story of Jesus' origin, it may simply be communicating the very REAL truth that Jesus was entirely full of the Spirit of The Living God from head to toe, and that his whole life was sent on envoy direct from God's Spirit as The manifestation of the invisible God in the flesh. A theological truth that indeed can be very really true, even if the virgin conception story is not held to be straightforward history in the strict sense.
    Miracle stories same thing. the stories may be just that, stories told to press home very real truths about the greatness of Jesus' significance and person.
    the resurrection, same thing, the "story(s)" of the resurrection may have "mythological" constructs in them, but to assert this, is NOT to assert that they are fairy tales, or that something very real didn't happen. the stories may indeed be communication the very real truth that Jesus really did move on to the next plane of existence ( what we call the "glorified" state). to say that the biblical writers used, or told stories, utilizing mythological motifs, or constructs, is NOT to cast doubt on the theological truths of reality that those stories are meaning to convey.

    bottom line is- to think that "scripture" may have mythic elements in it, in its reporting of things and communication of things, is NOT to denigrate the veracity of those things. i believe we honor the precious ancient writings we have, when we treat them on their own terms from their own cultural and literary world, and then mine those forms for the real truths they contain in those forms, truths that are too big and too real to be captured in merely straightforward literalistic forms.

    i refer you back to several of the works i mentioned many posts ago, ( and here a few others) where they have catalogued and explained much of this in more intelligent, scholarly and articulate ways than i can do here.

    Taking the bible seriously by Benton White,
    Inspiration and authority by Paul Achtemeier
    Gods word in human words by Kenton sparks (with some reservations)
    Wendy Cotters miracles in Greco roman antiquity
    Mark Hardings early christiAnity in social context,
    David Dungans documents for studying the gospels
    Charles Talberts What is a Gospel
    Luke Timothy Johnson's first several chapters in his The Writings of the New Testament
    Lee Martin McDonalds first several chapters in his
    Christianity and Its Sacred Literature
    David Aune's The New Testament In It's Literary Environment

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Hi David - Thank you for your extensive response. I appreciate you taking the time to clarify your views on the matter of "mythology." Your clarifications were helpful.

    By the way, I meant no disrespect when I expressed doubts/questions about whether you had actually read the works I cited, and I wasn't trying to be snarky when I asked parenthetically whether you were an expert in mythology & pseudepigrapha. As you know, in internet discussions like these people can make all kinds of bold claims and set themselves forth as experts when they are not really such. From your initial comments I admit I was skeptical that you had actually read or were familiar with the works I cited, but I take you at your word that you are familiar with these works and am glad to know that you have sought to read them fairly. And regarding my parenthetical comment, I was just genuinely curious about whether or not you do, in fact, have academic credentials to address these matters. (Full disclosure on my part: I am a pastor serving an Orthodox Presbyterian congregation, not a professional academic; however, I received my BA in Religious Studies at the College of Wooster and my M.Div. from Gordon Conwell Seminary.)

    From what you have shared above, it seems that our differences on the nature of Scripture and the matter of "mythology" are at a foundational, worldview, presuppositional level. If I have read you correctly, it seems that you are coming from a Bultmannian / existentialist perspective.

    You wrote: "...the basic point is that one need not get their feathers ruffled anytime someone says that the bible has “myth” in it, as if “myth” automatically means false, fairy tale, and fake. “scripture” can still be reliable and still very much be communicating Solid absolute Theological, spiritual truth, even if it is using less than straightforward historical exactness to do so. just one simple example for now: when the bible talks of God having wings or of God walking in the garden, we surely recognize this as “mythological” language of the ancients as they spoke of the gods, and though the OT uses this “medium” of communication, and we of course don’t take it literally, we don’t then doubt that it is still teaching something very real and very true- namely that God is active in human affairs and that God is not aloof, but that he is everywhere to be found as he is omnipresent and so forth."

    GW: I think the category of "myth," even with your carefully nuanced qualifications, is an unhelpful and inaccurate category to use when approaching the Scriptures. (And, yes, I do confess without hesitation or embarrassment the historic confession of the church catholic: That the Scriptures are the infallible Word of God, the only rule of faith and practice.) I would agree with you that Divinely-revealed theological truth can be conveyed in non-literal ways (through poetic expression, symbology, apocalyptic, personification, analogy, parable, phenomenological language, etc.). But the deep historic consciousness evident in the canonical Scriptures, which roots theological truth in the mighty, supernatural redemptive acts of God in real space-time history (for example, the exodus event-miracle and the literal incarnation, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth), argues against making a sharp dichotomy between historical truth and theological truth. To dehistoricize the Christian Faith by denying the literal historicity of such biblical teachings as the miraculous events that brought Israel into being as a covenanted nation, the virgin birth, literal miracles, bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ, is really to gnosticize Christianity and thus empty it of its spiritual power, thereby making it spiritually irrelevant.

    Regarding your view of mythology, in the example you gave above about God having wings and "walking" in a garden, I would argue that this is not "mythological" language. It is doubtful that the biblical authors were intending for these expressions to be taken with wooden literalness. This is an example of anthropomorphic, symbolic language employed to communicate a theological truth. To classify essential truths of the historic Christian faith like the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ along with this kind of symbolic language as "mythology" is, in my opinion, a category error and involves a seriously-inaccurate hermeneutic.

    You wrote: "i believe we honor the precious ancient writings we have, when we treat them on their own terms from their own cultural and literary world, and then mine those forms for the real truths they contain in those forms, truths that are too big and too real to be captured in merely straightforward literalistic forms."

    GW: I appreciate your concern to read the Scriptures on their own terms, but I believe this is precisely what you and those who advocate your theological existentialist approach in fact do not do. I believe it is seriously misguided eisegesis and anachronism to think that ancient Israelites and the early Christians viewed their Scriptures from the modern lens of theological existentialism, or that they intended their kerygma to be understood as "mythology." The apostles seemed to really believe and proclaim that in Jesus Christ, the "noumenal" became "phenomenal"; God literally, supernaturally became a man (the theanthropos) in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. After all, why on earth would they be willing to die proclaiming as historical fact something that they knew was only really myth and metaphor employed to express some ultimately inexpressible theological truth that cannot really be captured accurately in human language and which only has a minimal historic core (if any)? And why should anyone bother to get out of bed on Sunday for church if the Christian Story is really merely a profound "story" involving myth and metaphor expressing existentialist truth that doesn't really intersect with their literal, historical, space-time existence? (By the way, the statistics from the last century seem to make one thing pretty clear: Theological liberalism empties churches in the long run. So much for trying to make the Christian Faith relevant to the "modern man.")

    David, thank you again for taking the time to respond. While we obviously disagree (at points quite sharply), I appreciate this opportunity to dialogue on these important matters. I wish you the best and hope you have a happy new year. (I'd be happy to continue dialoguing if you wish, but if you are tired of this conversation that's OK too.)

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - David

    Cool thanks for your thoughtful response as well
    But no I am NOT coming from the bultmann/existentialist perspective at at.

    I believe if you read my prev posts carefully , you will see that I was, and am not, doing or claiming the dehistoricizing thing.

    Again, to say that the biblical authors may have communicated some things in what today we would call "myth", is NOT necessarily to therefore label those things as non historical. Though obviously many have done so and continue to.

    For example, the ascension, similar tales can be found in Hellenistic times of god like or semi divine inspired figured rising and ascending, so does that mean the ascension story of Jesus is only a fairy tale? Well it surely does not mean he actually floated up into the upper atmosphere like a hot air balloon, but to take it non literally , to see it as a "mythical" mode of communication, is NOT, and need not equal denying that the "story " is indeed communicating something real that actually happened in reality. Jesus really did go on to the next or "higher" plane of reality. This really happened , but not literally in a straightforward rendering of the story. To interpret it in a literal way , is to be making a literary category mistake and to be mis handling the ancient literature.

    This way of thinking, is not at all a denial of the authority of scripture, it's not to be doubting it. It is rather simply coming at it from a historical perspective as to the nature of the ancient/hellenized modes of thought and literature that they are.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - David

    And yes of course the apostles meant that the noumenal actually did become the phenomenal

    But the scriptural authors, ( tradition preservers), spoke of these very real things using "stories ", as was done in that culture often when speaking of "divine " activity.

    None of this is a minimizing or denial of the reality of the substance of what is being communicated in the writings , but it does not help the cause of Christ when these ancient writings are interpreted in ways incommensurate with the literary and communicative modes of those times as so prevalent from the surrounding lit of its day.

    The good news of the gospel is offensive enough, and while we should not downplay it due to that, we should not add to it unnecessarily by handling the writings in unrealistic ways.

    And yes I concur , the apostolic kerygma is of course real.

    "Mythical" constructs employed in the biblical communicators , is a mode of communication meant to talk of real things, albeit in less than straightforward literalistic ways.

    As far as quoting what Peter says about "not following cleverly devised myths ", this hardly disproves the use of " myth " in scripture at all. Peter in context there is only talking about seeing the true majesty of Jesus. , he is not at all talking about the full panoply of scripture and whether or not there is mythical modes of communicating real things. Even peters statement, still does not rule out speaking mythically of the very REAL majesty of Jesus that they ACTUALLY did witness.

    Again , I would like to point you to the books I listed several posts ago. They are have equal expertise to guys Luke Wright and Bauckham for instance, and they are very much full blooded Christians in the faith.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - David

    As for academic credentials, no I am not an expert and no I do not have academic credentials in these areas. Never pretended to be or to have. But I am an educated person capable of extensively learning from those who are the experts, and on forums like these, I am thinking that non experts are allowed to post their thoughts, and that those without credentials may, if they have taken the serious time and energy to study, share their opinions as well.

    Having said this, academic credentials don't always mean someone isn't goofy in their perspective ( I am not implying that towards you)
    Their are many bona fide credentialed bible profs and pastors that teach all sorts of wacky things such as the left behind type of thinking, and one can find bona fide credentialed profs in the Mormon church for example , but surely they are off on many serious things. Now I'm of course NOT denigrating the importance or the place of bona fide study or credentials. But I am saying that credentials do not necessarily guard against a certain type of staunch dogmatism
    ( again not implying that to you )

    I may not have the credentials , but I have honestly read very widely on these subjects, and with about as honest a searching spirit as I know how to have, and have been willing to take the time to inform myself fairly extensively at the feet ( books ) of the many credentialed experts out there.
    No this of course does not mean I'm correct , but it does mean my opinion is informed and rather fairly well

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Hi David - Thanks for your responses. I appreciate the dialogue.

    You wrote: "For example, the ascension, similar tales can be found in Hellenistic times of god like or semi divine inspired figured rising and ascending, so does that mean the ascension story of Jesus is only a fairy tale? Well it surely does not mean he actually floated up into the upper atmosphere like a hot air balloon, but to take it non literally , to see it as a “mythical” mode of communication, is NOT, and need not equal denying that the “story ” is indeed communicating something real that actually happened in reality. Jesus really did go on to the next or “higher” plane of reality. This really happened , but not literally in a straightforward rendering of the story. To interpret it in a literal way , is to be making a literary category mistake and to be mis handling the ancient literature."

    GW: I appreciate your concerns about understanding ancient modes of communication, and the danger of making a literary category mistake. I also hear you that we need to read Scripture in light of its ancient literary setting. But, again, as I mentioned in a previous comment, I still believe that "myth" is an unhelpful and inaccurate category when applied to Scripture. I also believe that some of the redemptive events recorded in Scripture which you might categorize as "myths" pointing to some suppposed deeper "theological truths" (for example, the literal ascension of Christ, the virgin birth, the literal miracles of Christ, his physical resurrection and thus the empty tomb, etc.) would be emptied of their theological reality and power if they were not literal events that occured in real space-time history. Again, your view seems to me to run counter to the clear historical consciousness evident throughout Scripture.

    Here again I think you are reading into Scripture certain questionable assumptions and interpretations based upon a questionable understanding of the role of ancient literature in biblical interpretation. While the canonical Scriptures certainly share some common features with other ancient literature and were written in an ancient setting, they also manifest distinct features that set them apart from this literature. For example, I know you may argue that the author of Luke-Acts couches Christian "myth" in a historical-narrative mode of expression, and thus you might not understand his claim to base his record of the Jesus story upon "eyewitness" testimony as something to be taken at face value. But it seems to me (and to many careful scholars who are much more competent and learned than myself - for example, Dr. I. Howard Marshall) that Luke's historical account of the Christ events is intended to be taken at face value, whatever formal similarities it may share with other ancient "history" writings. (If Luke had intended for his readers to take him at "face value," what other way could he have communicated this to us other than the mode he employed in Luke-Acts? And would not he, and other biblical authors, have been guilty of gross deception if he had couched such Christian "mythology" in this straightforward historical-narrative mode which he employed in his writings?)

    David, I wonder if perhaps the stumbling block here for you is a reluctance to accept "supernatural" events which take place in literal space-time history. (Please don't misunderstand: I am not accusing you of being an "anti-supernaturalist"; but you do seem to be somewhat hesitant to accept scriptural accounts of God's miraculous interventions into real space-time history, at least at "face value," and thus it seems you re-interpret such events in light of your particular understanding of ancient literature and its modes of expression.) But isn't the bottom line this: If the God revealed in the Bible - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the blessed Trinity revealed in Scripture and confessed by the historic church catholic - is indeed real (literally, objectively Real), then mighty supernatural deeds like the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the "Red Sea," the miraculous conception of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary, the literal miracles of Christ, the re-animation and thus resurrection of Jesus' dead body back to life, and the literal taking up of Jesus bodily into the air in his ascension, etc., are small potatos for such a God. After all, God is Almighty, omnipotent, sovereign, the great "I AM," and thus able to accomplish all his holy will.

    One of the doctrines that historic orthodox Protestants have always confessed is the "perspicuity" (i.e., essential clarity) of Scripture. God's Word was revealed in common, ordinary language and intended to be understood by common, ordinary people. On the whole it was not written by ivory tower scholars in obtuse language that only other scholars can "really" understand. Of course, this doesn't mean that all of Scripture is equally clear, or that there aren't difficult portions of Scripture, or that we shouldn't seek to understand the ancient world in which Scripture was revealed or the literary conventions that the inspired writers employed to communicate God's Word. However, it seems to me that the approach you suggest brings the average Bible reader (even the educated one) under the "tyranny of the experts." Just as our Roman Catholic friends think that the Scriptures cannot be properly interpreted without the guidance of Pope and Magisterium, so it would seem to me your approach would basically suggest that the average layperson cannot understand what the Bible "really" means without the guidance of academic theologians and scholars who are experts. Thus I think one of the dangers of your perspective is that it lends itself to being elitist (since only "experts" in ancient literature can accurately understand what the biblical authors "really" intended to say).

    Thanks again for the stimulating dialogue.

    Like 0 Short URL:
  • Guest - David

    Not only Am I aware of what you say but no I have no problem with tha idea of god intervening in real space and time history to do real things. It's not a matter of that, it's a matter of what kind if lit are we dealing with and how does that lit communicate these things and what is the underlying real occurrences communicated by that lit. It's not complex at all. A little child can easily grasp that , for a paradigmatic example here - the ascension story is a story that communicates not that Jesus rose up in the air like a hot air balloon , but rather that he indeed ACTUALLY ascended to a new status post his resurrection. The story , the "myth" simply means he is the living lord above all. Not too complicated. No need for ivory towers here contra your assertion. Brother I perceive thou art in the throws of 'fundermentalist dogma. Your responses have all been very predictable in both your assertions as well your misunderstandings of the types of things I have asserted. Peace in Christ. "In Him, God was reconciling the world to himself ..."

    Like 0 Short URL: