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The Bible and its Authority

George and Eileen Anderson


We were brought up in fundamentalist families and churches.  After we met and married, we quit attending church.  So what is our present position regarding the Bible?  Frankly, the Bible is an embarrassment to those who demand a textbook that is both PC and ‘modern'.  The Bible is neither.  Worse still, it is uncompromisingly supernatural: dreams, visions, angels, demons, epic events and miracles are an integral part of its fabric, and attempts to edit out such nuisances leave us with a disjointed antique that loses rather than attracts our attention.


There even appears to be a disquieting sub-text that some scholars suggest is part of its unique nature.  Take just one example out of many.  The numerical values of the letters and words of the first verse of Genesis can be manipulated to produce pi (?) to several decimal places.  So what? Just that if you do the same manipulation to the first verse of John's gospel (which has a contextual similarity to Genesis 1:1) you get “e”, essential to engineers and electricians alike.  Use the internet; check it (and its significance) for yourself.


And no other holy book – or pot-boiler, ancient or modern – has achieved such a track record for fulfilled prophecy.  ‘Must give us pause', as Hamlet said.


But - to us at least – the special character of the Bible lies in what it doesn't say and doesn't claim.  It never, ever (even when touting its own merits) makes any claim to being the ultimate authority.


Take all the writings associated with the resurrection of Jesus.  First, there isn't a single account of the event of the resurrection per se.  Second, the characters in the story didn't accept the event because of an empty tomb and a missing corpse.  They became believers because of encounters – person to person, often in broad daylight, always in non-religious situations – with the risen Christ.


Such a relationship, even subsequent to the ascension, was deemed not merely normal but essential to belief.  Belief did not – and should not – arise from dogma, but from an on-going encounter.


May we suggest that the whole question of fundamentalism and Biblical authority is a red herring.  The Bible on its own admission and by virtue of its thematic structure is simply an adjunct (it plays second fiddle; it provides pointers and guidelines) to its own major theme: namely that God is a person.  Particularly he is a person who gets in touch and develops a relationship with any individual who will take him seriously.


It is part of the history of structured Judaism and Christianity that, while religious lip-service has been paid to the God who used to get in touch and to whom even now we may ‘pray' (think: recite monologues), yet because of the essentially anarchic nature of a personal day-by-day relationship with God, such a concept is downplayed by those in authority, sometimes to the point of total denial.


But this was the essential meaning of the phrase ‘kingdom of God' used repeatedly by Jesus in his teaching.  At the risk of using a tautology: God is king in the kingdom of God.  It's you and him, period.


On a personal note: it works.

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