The “Me” from ten years ago would not have agreed with the “Me” from today about the doctrine of the Inspiration of Scripture.
So I decided to debate myself.
The Old Me from about ten years ago argues for the traditional view of inspiration, and the New Me, who is still trying to figure lots of things out, argues for… well, he’s not really arguing for a view at all. He’s just trying to make sense of the old view, which, the more he thinks about it, makes less and less sense.
Here is the discussion:
Old Me: I believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
New Me: That is a great thing to believe. Why do you believe it?
Old Me: Because 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 say so.
New Me: Well, even if these verses say what you claim (and I’m not convinced they do), a book is not inspired just because it claims to be. Other “holy books” of other religions claim to be inspired. Do you believe these other claims as well?
Old Me: No, those other books are not inspired. We know the Bible is because it has proven itself to be historically accurate time and time again, while those other books have not. Also, the Bible has fulfilled prophecy, while those other books do not.
New Me: OK. So it doesn’t have anything to do with 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 after all?
Old Me: It does, but you have to take it all together. Those verses show that the Bible is inspired, and history and prophecy prove that what those verses say is true.
New Me: So if a book is historically accurate, and makes some prophecies that turn out to be true, and also makes claims to be from God, then we should believe it? Because you know that other religions, such as Bahai, Rastafarians, Muslims, and others claim all of these things for their own religious holy books. We claim that their books are not historically accurate, or the prophecies are not as precise as ours, but they claim such things about our Bible. And just as we have explanations for why our Bible is historically accurate, they have similar explanations for theirs.
Old Me: Well, I haven’t studied those religions very much, but I don’t think what you are saying is true. But regardless, even if it is, we need an inspired Bible, because if it is not inspired, we can’t trust anything it says. Where would our authority come from? How would we know what is true?
New Me: Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere. So the issue behind the inspiration of Scripture is our NEED for inspired Scripture. Without inspired Scripture, how could we know anything for sure, right?
Old Me: Right!
New Me: Tell me, that Bible you are holding in your hands, is it inspired?
Old Me: Well, it’s the New King James Version. I think it is the best translation, and most accurately presents the words and ideas of the original Greek and Hebrew. And it’s based off the Majority Text.
New Me: You didn’t answer the question.
Old Me: No, this Bible is not inspired. Inspiration really only applies to the original manuscripts written by the original authors. When people like Moses, Matthew, Peter, John, and Paul wrote Scripture under the inspiration of God, God helped them write the Bible without error.
New Me: I would like to see one of these inspired original manuscripts.
Old Me: Well, we don’t actually have any of them. They have long since disappeared. But we have copies, and it is from these Greek and Hebrew copies that we get our translations.
New Me: I see. So the Greek and Hebrew copies are inspired?
Old Me: Well, not exactly. They are copies. They are not original manuscripts, and the traditional definition for the doctrine of inspiration applies only to the original manuscripts. But just as God guided the writing of the original manuscripts, He also guided the copying of these manuscripts (and later, the selection of which books should be included in the Bible) so that we can know with certainly that the Greek and Hebrew copies we have today are 99% accurate to what was originally written.
New Me: Wait. What? They’re not exact copies?
Old Me: No. Humans made the copies, and errors are bound to creep in over time. But most of the errors are spelling errors and word transpositions and things like that. Almost none of the errors affect any major Christian doctrines.
New Me: You are saying that God guided the copying and transmission of the manuscripts, just as He did with the writing, but that errors still crept in? If so, how do you know that errors didn’t creep in to the original manuscripts, especially since we don’t have them to verify? Furthermore, even if they were error-free, why does it matter, since none of our copies are error-free?
Old Me: You have to understand. If the Bible is not inspired and is not inerrant, then we can’t trust anything it says, and cannot know for sure anything about God, about ourselves, what to believe, or how to get into a right relationship with Him. And besides, we have manuscript evidence which blows Homer and Aristotle out of the water. You see, they take the number of manuscript copies that we have and…
New Me: Okay, okay, okay. You didn’t really answer the question again, and I don’t want to hear about manuscript evidence. Not now, anyway.
For the sake of argument, let me just concede the point. In fact, for the sake of argument, let me just concede everything. Let’s assume that the original manuscripts were inspired, and that although errors have crept into the copies, they are still 99% accurate, and that the Bible is historically accurate, and that the numerous prophecies really did come true, and that the Bible claims all of this for itself.
Some of this I believe. Some of it I don’t. But regardless, I will concede all of this for the sake of argument.
Old Me: Great! So I win?
New Me: Well, here’s the problem. You say that we need all this so that we can know for sure what is right about God, about what to believe and what to do, and about how to get into a right relationship with God.
Old Me: That’s right. Without the inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word of God, we wouldn’t be able to know any of that.
New Me: Hmmm. Tell me, how’s it going?
Old Me: How is what going?
New Me: Well, given the fact that we have an inspired, inerrant, authoritative, historically accurate, prophetically confirmed Word of God, how is Christianity doing in knowing things for sure about God, ourselves, what to believe, how to behave, and how to get into right relationship with God?
I assume that since we have inspired, inerrant Scripture, we must have unanimous agreement in all of those areas I just mentioned. Right?
Old Me: Well, no. Actually, there is no agreement on any of these things whatsoever.
New Me: So I don’t get it. You said you needed all those ideas about the Bible so that you could know for sure about these things, but even when you have them, you still don’t know for sure.
Old Me: Oh, I never said that! I know the truth about these things. You asked if there was widespread agreement. There isn’t.
But when it comes to what I believe and how I practice, I am certain about most things. Why? Because there are others who believe the same way I do, and we have the best Bible scholars, and the best seminaries, and the biggest churches, and the most authors, and our missionaries are very active overseas, and we agree with most of the teachings of the church throughout history … at least since the Reformation anyway … and I believe that with time, and a little education of how to really study the Bible, people will eventually see that what I believe is the right way to believe.
New Me: There’s not much I can say to that. I guess I’ll see you in ten years.
Old Me: So I win? I am the winner of this debate!
New Me: Sure. You win. If it is that important to you, you can win.
Old Me: What is that supposed to mean?
New Me: Never mind. Give it about seven years, and you’ll see…
You know that talking tou yourself is a sign of serious problesm, right. Should I be worried?
All kidding aside, I find this interesting. I have never really thought of debating myself over what I used to believe as opposed to what I believe now. I have debated a few of my friends from the past over some of these things with very little sucess. Oh well, I never was very good at debate anyway.
I love that you concede the debate to your former self in the end. I sympathize completely with this, winning these debates and being “right” was much more important to me then than it is now. A good friend of mine says we all have a ruler, and it always starts somewhere below us. We can all concede that we do not get everything right, but somehow we think that we or our side have gotten less wrong than everyone else.
In Christ’s Service,
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry
Jeremy Myers says
When I first began writing the post, I actually served as a “Debate Moderator” as well, asking questions from both sides. That got too confusing (and too long), so I went with simple split-personality schizophrenia.
Dylan Dodson says
Although we disagree on this issue, I enjoyed the closing remarks. I must admit, as a 21 year old, I’m still learning when to “give up” debating over issues that aren’t essential doctrines (namely, salvation in Jesus alone). Thanks.
Jeremy Myers says
You have a good mind for these things. Keep studying, learning, and especially, spending lots of time with those outside of “Christianity.” That, more than anything else, has given me a different perspective.
Did you mean to say that salvation in Jesus alone is not an essential doctrine? Traditionally, that has been the primary essential doctrine of Christianity. If you do not believe that is an essential doctrine, what is?
Dylan Dodson says
Yes, I worded that wrong! That is absolutely the most important!
You did a good job summarizing the two viewpoints, in a novel and interesting way. It really is a waste of time trying to convince people to change their view, isn’t it? (So why do people love to argue over this kind of stuff?) We’d be much better off going out into the neighborhood and picking up trash (a reference to my latest post on Graceground). That might change us and even others.
Jeremy Myers says
Your GraceGround post on picking up trash was fantastic. I love to discuss and debate theology (as long as it’s cordial and friendly), but more often than not, I debate it with myself. The good thing is that I’m always the winner!
Then you might find the little story I told there in response to your comment interesting. I think it epitomizes most of what I’ve said there in all the posts on “Getting To Know Our Neighbors” and “Being The Church In The Community”. Unfortunately, I wonder if most church people would really “get” the point of the story.
Mandy Daames on Facebook says
Fascinating.Very creative,debating yourself.
I debate myself all the time, drives the “know it alls” nuts. I have actually been through the line of thought you present here.
What I have learned, is that even though it is difficult for the laymen/students to get ahold of enough knowledge to have a fair perspective, that there is wide and serious divide between the Bible and other scriptures. There is gulf that reinforces the classical idea that the Bible is special and the others are not. So if a person wants to read all of the various holy works himself in the original languages (not me) or carefully research the secondary level works of the scholars who do, I think both approaches show their is something special/different about the Bible.
But what about “average Joe?” the guy who isn’t going to be able or even wants to go through all of that research? I think for them (and really for nerds like us) that the Bible rings true, the “Sheep know His voice”. When third world countries that are Muslim get small exposer to the gospel, their “average Ameds” love the Bible. It is readily received in communist countries, Muslim countries, and even in America to the poor and uneducated to the dismay of the ruling class. This is sort of a reverse anecdotal proof os scripture: the people who need it want it and understand it better than the clergy. If the clergy understood the scriptures, they wouldn’t be clergy, and would minister to the poor!
These people who “Know his voice” always seem to get it, and I mean get it better than me, and I have all the education. They seem smarter than I or the Mormon who “prays to receive testimony.” At times, I envy these people. They have something I wish I had: a confidence and surety that is bigger than my student loans!
Jeremy Myers says
I agree. There is something divine about Scripture, and I believe God whispers to us through it, as the Spirit works through the Word to draw us closer to Jesus.
You write well. I am coming to check out your blog.
Mike Beidler says
This reads like a gradual conversation I had with myself over the last 5 years or so.
I fine example of the “great minds …” axiom. 😉
Jeremy Myers says
Ha ha! I read several of your posts, so I take that as a compliment. Thank you. I like the thinking your are doing.
Heres my journey as a new believer i thought if i read the bible right from cover to cover i will get to know God but i found it was just a crusty old book full of myths so i thought.I found alot of it really boring and not inspiring at all i was quite discouraged.I couldnt figure what people got out of it.So i didnt find God in the bible.As a new believer i trusted in Jesus but had some major stumbling blocks to overcome never really had any good relationships with father mother didnt grow up with brothers or sisters and here i am trying to develop a relationship with God.So i had a reasonable head knowledge of the word but it didnt make much sense to me so most of what i learnt was what i was told.Spent 20 years as a church going carnal christian not walking according to the word but more with a head knowledge of the word and all that time trying to be abetter person it was such a waste of time except one time we went overseas and God just turned up and we saw incredible things happens miracles seeing the gifts of the spirit in operation it was amazing .Bu tthe effort of trying to live a good christian life got to much ad i was disollutioned.Spent ten years as a backslidden barely believing christian and then in recent years as a transformed renewed Christian and i finally got it.It is all about a relationship with Jesus Christ and working in submission to the holy spirit he is the one that inspires his word he brings it to life.If you want to understand the word we must apply it to our lives then it becomes part of us thats the difference between knowledge and understanding not just knowing the word but living the word.The bible is a book useful for living not just a theoretical analysis or a history book.Jesus is the living word its through him that he opens his word to us without the holy spirit in us the carnal mind cannot comprehend Gods word it a mystery.It was designed that way so only those who are truly seeking God shall find him.brentnz
Bruce Hunzicker says
I absolutely love this! This is the story of Jesus being revealed! I found your post 5 years later and it resonates in a huge way. There’s something inspired in that.
Interesting conversation, I would just make one comment/opinion –
Because you know that other religions, such as Bahai, Rastafarians, Muslims, and others claim all of these things for their own religious holy books. ……
We claim that their books are not historically accurate, or the prophecies are not as precise as ours, but they claim such things about our Bible. And just as we have explanations for why our Bible is historically accurate, they have similar explanations for theirs.
Well, they can claim that all they want, just as I can claim that Unicorns exist. That doesn’t make it so.
Obviously a full examination of these religions in the manner you state would be the subject of many books, not a mere message board post, but to briefly scratch the surface….take one example…
I’ve read the Koran, studied its history, its supposed prophecy. How it came about….not sure how anyone that’s actually researched it in detail would come away with the conclusion that ‘they have similar explanations for theirs.’ When Muhammad received revelation, it sounds more like demon possession than anything I see in the biblical scriptures, in fact, Muhammad was suicidal, and thought he was demon possessed, but His wife convinced him otherwise. The Bible had numerous authors over numerous centuries, the Koran – just one, over 20-some years. And if you’ve ever read the Koran, you know it’s a death cult, and when you see Islamic terrorism carried out, it’s merely the reader following the commands of the Koran(not so with the bible when grammatical-historical exegesis is used). I could go on. I’m just scratching the surface. The apologetics of Islam pale in comparison to the apologetics of christianity, in my opinion.
Jeremy Myers says
Strangely, it is now seven years after I wrote the post above … and I have pretty much come back around to agreeing with the Old Me. Not that I want to “win” arguments … but as I have thought over this issue, and studied Scripture more, and seen and learned new things from the Bible that I never knew before, I have come to see that there is no other explanation for the revelation in Scripture than that it was inspired by God.
The truths about the nature of sin, the grace of God, and the horrors of religion are not found in any other human text throughout history. Humans could not (and did not) come up with such truths on our own. We MUST have an inspired, revelatory text from God in order to learn the things the Bible teaches.
Bruce Hunzicker says
This is well said but doesn’t have to mean that the Bible is inerrant. It is full of inspiration and the Gospel message of Jesus comes through loudly and clearly. To me, the messiness of it all (the human part) shows the brilliance of the divine. I agree that man would not tell this kind of story about himself but man’s handprint is all over the Scripture.