I'm new here, and have been away from Christianity for about 7 years. I used to be actively involved in a kind of Pentecostal church, and used the Bible very often to discuss and privately understand God.

I'm obviously in a different place now, but am genuinely interested in understanding what I believe and perhaps will believe in the future, so please do not treat this question lightly: it means a great deal to me. I call myself a "Deist" now, which I see as the proper neutral position.

Before I left the church, I looked into the formation of the Bible and was thoroughly unconvinced. I found a lot of answers for things in the Book of Enoch (which I'm not recommending per se), which showed how much I had drifted.

Toward the end of my "Christian years", I felt very strongly that the Bible was actually a hinderance to the modern Church, as it acted as a reference book in a legal way, and did not encourage people to seek God for spiritual revelation - whatever that meant. The main channel for revelation was actually scripture, said many around me. The "Living" word sounded more to me like a radio frequency which is tuned into rather than a couple of finished canons.

Now, I find it irritating that people discuss issues with different views and use scriptures which are vague and sometimes can be seen to contradict each other, so I have posed this question. I guess inside this question is another one about whether the Bible is the out and out Word of God, or a (very special) reference point.

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migrated from christianity.stackexchange.com Mar 21 '12 at 17:55

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Not a bad question, but I believe it is a better fit on the Meta site, rather than this one. If you check the FAQ for this site, having references is part of what makes a "good" answer. There's some history behind it, but the short version is that every question on the site was becoming an opinion-fest, and a popularity contest. After much discussion in chat and on Meta, the majority agreed on several standards, one of which was that an answer that's supportable is better than a mere opinion. Scripture is one obvious form of supporting docs, as would be doctrinal statements, etc. –  David Stratton Mar 21 '12 at 4:38
    
@DavidStratton Thanks. I'm not sure I want a "Meta" point of view, considering my history in Christianity and a certain need for answers which are applicable to the development of belief, but I'll try it. –  user1457 Mar 21 '12 at 4:56
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@David I'm not sure the OP means "on this site" - it sounds to me "in general", which is not a "meta" thing in the SE sense –  Marc Gravell Mar 21 '12 at 6:29
    
possible duplicate of Why is the Bible a foundation of theological evidence? –  Affable Geek Mar 21 '12 at 11:03
    
You should specify the doctrinal background you want to see this answered by (if any) as a Catholic, I would certainly say "no, but here are sixteen reason the Bible agrees with the Church" but that might be utterly unhelpful to you. –  Peter Turner Mar 21 '12 at 11:09
    
@Marc Gravell - You're right. I wish I could retract the vote to close as off-topic. And may I say, very nice answer! –  David Stratton Mar 21 '12 at 11:34
    
I agree a lot with the OP. My difference is that I don't see the Bible as a hindrance per se, but those who take the books individually literal. I cannot say collectively literal as those who claim that have never read the books. –  user1054 Mar 21 '12 at 12:23
    
For the record: I restate that I don't see this as a meta.SE, as it appears (to me) to relate to "in Christianity", not "on this site". –  Marc Gravell Mar 21 '12 at 19:58
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@MarcGravell I to am not sure I agree with the migration. Its definitely meta, but its a "meta Christianity" issue not a "meta Christianity.se" issue... –  wax eagle Mar 22 '12 at 0:47
    
Let's not forget that for some time there have existed Christian sects that explicitly repudiate the authority of the Paulinist Bible, or, in the case of the Doukhobors, reject the authority of any document written by men at all. –  Steely Dan May 25 '12 at 18:57
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3 Answers 3

I'll try to pretend I have a "Christian" hat to put on for an answer, but note that much of following doesn't really reflect my own personal views:

If you mean in terms of the overall thinking process:

The problem if you put down the Bible is that you might not get to the Christian answer! What do I mean by this? Over history, many many peoples have started with the same inputs: observation of the human condition, and the world around them, and have reached very different conclusions. There have been countless religions and countless more gods (monotheism is pretty rare). I use this as evidence to support my claim:

if you don't use the Christian Bible in your reasoning, you are statistically unlikely to reach the Christian conclusion as the answer

yes, some people will say "of you will, as that is the Truth", but the numbers do not agree with that. More recently, with the huge advances in critical thinking and objective empirical science, things have changed even more, with the same inputs pretty much universally leading to the conclusion "no god(s)" (small g intentional, as this doesn't apply specifically to the Christian God).

So the Bible may or may not (in your words) "be a hinderance" to Christianity (I honestly don't have an opinion on that), but it is the thing that defines Christianity; if you don't use the Bible and agreed dogma/doctrine, then indeed you are not unlikely to reach very different answers, which would be, by definition, either a heresy of Christianity, or an entirely non-Christian (whether other-religion, or non-religious) answer. Perhaps more likely is that the other party simply says "no, I disagree", and with no real basis for either view, there is no way of concluding anything. Christianity has done a remarkable job at creating schisms within schisms even when the text is (broadly) agreed; if we extended this to personal views too... chaos.

If you mean in terms of a specific point within an argument:

Any argument needs some kind of basis - otherwise it is purely idle speculation or uniquely personal thinking. In terms of (any) religion, there is usually an agreed (by the religion/congregation) text/dogma that acts as a baseline - so starting from that position means you are all "on the same page" (without the risk of falling into my earlier point), and have some line in the sand upon which to discuss.

Doing so without a text to steer the answer is... tricky. Consider, for example the Aquinas proofs; I disagree entirely with his thinking process and reasoning (our critical thinking has improved greatly over the last 750 years), but: as a thought experiment, let's pretend for a moment that the core thrust of his logic was sound. Even so, the end of each proof ("This is God.") has not actually done anything to reach the Christian God, and could be used to support the God of any religion (or, indeed, Deism), or any as-yet unclear natural process that doesn't involve a supernatural conscious being.

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I'm pretty sure Aquinas' proofs for God's existence (and Plato's obviously) never mention the Trinity, all they are good for is proving a Creator God exists. For what it's worth the Bible doesn't mention the Trinity either. That is where dogma comes in and it can't be proven. It's up to the apologist however to refute any claims against dogma - that much is possible. –  Peter Turner Mar 21 '12 at 11:05
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Is it literally "necessary"? I'd say no. It's certainly possible to discuss theological questions using reason and logic, history, science, personal experience, etc.

When I'm talking to someone who doesn't believe the Bible, I don't use the Bible as an authority, because by definition the other person doesn't accept it. I seek to find some common ground, principles that we agree on, and go from there.

But there are lots of things in the Bible that we cannot know from other sources. There is little we can figure out about Heaven and Hell, angels and demons, etc, by studying math and science. We can figure out some things about the nature of God and about his thoughts by studying the universe he created, but there are limits to how far one can go with this. If I want to know what my neighbor thinks, I could figure some things out by watching his behavior. But I could learn a lot more by asking him, reading his correspondance, etc.

So ultimately, I think there are many theological questions that cannot be answered without using the Bible. But that's certainly not our only source of information.

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I guess the question comes down to this. Is the Bible literally the Word of God. If it is then it must be the source of Truth, if it is not then we are left adrift without any reference point. I say this because there are only two religions that I know of that claim a God who is omniscient and omnipotent (all knowing and all powerful), those are Christianity and Islam. The Koran was written by one man and contains obvious historical and philosophical errors and contradictions. The Bible on the other hand has withstood the most agressive and outrageous attacks by critics for thousands of year and continues to stand on it's own as a work of immense wisdom and historical accuracy as well as a work that has never been shown to be internally inconsistent. So we are left with one choice. Has God revealed His will to us perfectly in the Scriptures or are we limited to our paltry human experience to attempt to scratch out little pieces of the truth.

Given that the Bible is what it says it is, then it has a real power that goes way beyond just the bare words of it's text. Those words have real power as they are attested to by the Spirit. I have spoken with several unbelievers or agnostics over the last several years and none of them have found me obnoxious, however I continue to point them back to what the Bible says in our discussion. Some of them have told me that they do not believe the Bible, but I respond that I find it to be the center of everything I hold dear and true. If they respect me they will listen to my position.

If a 290 pound mugger was approaching a 18 year old college co-ed and the young lady pulled a 45 out of her purse and pointed it at him and he said that he did not believe in guns, should the co-ed just put the gun away? An unbeliever telling me that they do not believe in the Bible does nothing to my confidence in it's efficacy. I am going to kindly and lovingly keep pulling the trigger.

That people have different views says nothing about the Bible itself. Someone who mis-interprets Ohm's law and get's shocked does not invalidate the work of Dr. Ohm. We are all sinners, and there are very few in the church today who are sold out to God's Word and who will simply believe what it says. Most have limits they impose from the outside on their interpretation of the scriptures, this leads to many unfortunate divisions in Christ's body. But again it does not invalidate His Word.

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Do you exclude Judaism? Also, "historical accuracy" is tricky: having no strong evidence either way regarding a non-falsifiable hypotheses that specific events occurred is not the same as saying "it is accurate". By that approach, Russell's Teapot is accurate. I'm not sure how a deity being monotheistic/omnipotent/omniscient is important to the answer, but: isn't Brahman omnipotent and omniscient? Your analogy of the gun fails, because the gun is demonstrably effective to both believer and unbeliever. –  Marc Gravell Mar 21 '12 at 8:30
    
@Marc, Orthodox Judaism has turned primarily to the writings of men and away from the Old Testament, but as much as they hold the OT to be the word of God I would gladly add them. Brahman is an ultimate being but because there is no ascribed personality but instead the idea of substance or force only, Brahman can not be Omniscient. I disagree on the gun analogy. By faith I perceive the word has an effect. Not always the effect that I like but I do perceive an effect. There are Christian Scientists who might argue with the effectiveness of the gun... All a matter of perception. –  Nathan Bunney Mar 21 '12 at 10:47
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the principles of Brahman include "prajnānam brahma" ("Brahman knows everything"), and Brahman is commonly described as omniscient (and conscious too - not just power). "By faith I perceive" is an oxymoron; either you actually perceive it, or you have faith. Faith is defined as belief beyond evidence. By faith you might believe there is an effect, but that says nothing about whether that effect exists. If it was demonstrable (my words), it would not be a matter of faith. –  Marc Gravell Mar 21 '12 at 10:58
    
Even if Brahman knew everything, Hinduism does not even promote an idea of absolute truth. If we said that they did it would be an imposition of western ideals into that religion. Also Brahman knowing everything would include the idea of him knowing contradictions in the Hindu faith. –  Nathan Bunney Mar 22 '12 at 4:23
    
Heb 11:3 "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God..." So within the Christian worldview faith is never blind but it definitely teaches us things that we would not otherwise know. –  Nathan Bunney Mar 22 '12 at 4:25
    
Nowhere does the Bible say that "faith" is "belief without evidence". Look up references to "faith". e.g. Matt 14:31, Jesus invites Peter to walk on the water, then Peter becomes afraid, and Jesus says "Oh you of little faith." Did Peter fail to believe without evidence? No. He had just seen Jesus walk on the water, Jesus had enabled him to walk on the water. But then despite the evidence of his own eyes -- and feet! -- his faith failed. Biblical faith is not believing without evidence. Just the opposite: It is believing what the evidence shows, even when it challenges your preconceived ideas. –  Jay Mar 22 '12 at 8:18
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