The Bible – A True Story But Not Factual

Greg Strand – November 14, 2012 2 Comments

The statement below is precisely why the book Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, which was mentioned yesterday, needed to be written. This is one of many reasons for the need of such a book!

The Bible is a true story but not always factual. The truth of the Bible doesn’t come from the facts of the stories, but rather from the spiritual meaning of those stories. The true ideas the Bible teaches have little to do with history, geology, or any matters of the natural world, but have everything to do with the spiritual world and the things that really matter in our lives.

Amos Glenn, MINemergent: A Daily Communique (March 27, 2012)

Questions: What do you think of this statement? Where does it get it all wrong? If someone were to say that to you about the Bible, how would you respond?

This sort of understanding of the Bible was common among liberals. But now this description of the Bible is on the lips and pens of those who call themselves Evangelicals. (I do not know if Glenn identifies as an Evangelical or not.) The Evangelical understanding of the Bible is that it is inerrant in faith and practice, history and science. And it is important to know/remember, this is the historical position of the church!

A humble forewarning. It is likely that someone will claim an archaeological discovery that will call into question some aspect of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This is part of the popular media’s “liturgy” in light of the church celebrations (particularly Christmas and Easter). It is also quite likely that some pastor/preacher/teacher/leader will respond by saying that if the bones of Jesus were found, if it was determined that Jesus never rose from the dead, it would not change one aspect of his/her faith.

This is absolutely ludicrous. In fact, Paul bases his argument for the Christian faith, the gospel, on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul writes (1 Corinthians 15:14-19),

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that He raised Christ . . . For if the dead are not raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Paul will not allow this nonsense of having a true, biblical faith apart from the literal and physical death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who claim that an unresurrected Christ would not affect their faith indicates they have no true saving faith at all. Because “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), those “unbelieving Christians” (Christians by title or profession, but not in reality or confession), are most of all to be pitied.

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to The Bible – A True Story But Not Factual

  1. Greg, on face value, that quote gets nothing wrong at all! Perhaps in its broader context it would be worthy of the strong critique you’ve given it, but not in what you’ve isolated.

    Particularly, equating this concept with a denial of the death or resurrection of Christ is a stretch. It’s making the case that the Bible is “not always” factual, not that it “never is”. Big difference! Indeed, by allowing no leeway, you are indirectly making the assertion that everything in the Bible is to be taken 100% literally.

    I see the thrust of the quote this way: if we ever think we can prove God through human efforts at archeology or geology, or anything other than the revelation of God, we’ve totally missed the point. From the way that I read Scripture, that reality comes across pretty clearly.

    If more Christians are becoming more comfortable with mystery, paradox and “what really matters in our lives,” then, personally, I welcome the change!

  2. Thanks for interacting and commenting, Brad. You have rightly noted that what I wrote might be fitting if I was commenting on the broader context/meaning of the quote. That is precisely what I was doing.

    I agree that the veracity of the Bible is rooted in God and His revelation, not archaeology or any other matter. But because God’s revelation is in space and time, what is discovered is consistent with, not contrary to, that revelation. That is why I included four aspects to inerrancy: faith, practice, history and science (though it is not a science book, when it addresses matters of science, it is true).

    Finally, the notion of reading the Bible “literally” can be misunderstood. Because God’s revelation in the Bible consists of various genres, it is essential to interpret it “literally according to the author’s intent,” bearing in mind the divine Author’s providential superintendence.

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