Things that a Minimalist Christian does not have to believe – The Bible is the complete and perfect truth

I struggled to phrase the title of this post, but I’m talking about the attitude that because something is written in the Bible it must be taken as absolutely accurate and true. The Bible is often called the ‘Word of God’, and Christians are encouraged to study God’s Word, but the basis for such assertions is seldom presented.  St Paul referred to scriptures being ‘God breathed’, but if we think about it, what isn’t ‘God breathed’?  Can anything exist without God?

Bible study often takes the form of taking each sentence and trying to interpret it. This can lead to lengthy discussions about the translation of a particular word. It is trying to understand by dissection, but then risks missing the whole. It is similar perhaps to trying to understand the human being by examining each molecule, or ‘The Scream’ by examining a single brush stroke.

If we view the Bible as a collection of documents that were written by human beings describing their journey with God then we can understand why, for instance, different accounts of the same event may differ. We can understand that the meaning of any part must be discerned in the context of the day. We can understand that the writers might simply have got some things wrong. It was men who decided what the best books were to put in the Bible, and they made their decision based on sober judgement. But we should not now view the book as somehow having a magic spell on it that says that ‘this is God’s complete and unchallengeable word’.

There is immense value in the Bible, but I fear that modern Christians have been led to worship the Bible rather than God. It contains wisdom and encouragement, and is correctly used to support our growth rather than constrain it.

About Minimalist Christian

Phil Hemsley is a graduate of the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK. He works for a multinational company in the power industry, has presented technical papers at international conferences and holds many patents. He has published two books, the most recent is "The Big Picture, an Honest Examination of God Science and Purpose". He has lived on both sides of the faith fence. He is married, with two daughters.
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9 Responses to Things that a Minimalist Christian does not have to believe – The Bible is the complete and perfect truth

  1. Cassie says:

    Well I guess you know I am far from being a Christian but I must say I found the following passage very wise indeed. “I fear that modern Christians have been led to worship the Bible rather than God. It contains wisdom and encouragement, and is correctly used to support our growth rather than constrain it.”
    I would guess that many people have left Christianity because of the constraint you speak of here and also the constraint of dogma and doctrine which has been handed down over centuries, unchallenged and is no longer fit for the society we live in.

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  2. Thanks Cassie, and good to hear from you.

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  3. Sungho says:

    I do agree that it is not very wise to read Bible literally without context, historical background and a genre of each book. But I think it does not mean that stories in Bible are not true. I would say Bible is full of truths! What do you think?

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    • Good to hear from you Sungho.

      The Bible is certainly full of truths, but we must discern what they are. For instance, the story of Jonah has many truths that we can learn, but we don’t have to believe that Jonah was literally swallowed by a whale to learn them. We don’t have to believe that God actually told the Israelites to wipe out other nations, and in particular we mustn’t then extrapolate such a passage as meaning it is God’s will to wipe out other nations. Did God really tell George Bush to invade Iraq? He clearly thought so, and if he were writing a passage of the Bible he would say so, but I don’t have to believe it.

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      • Sungho says:

        Yes. Phil.
        I am very glad that I can still discuss with you.
        Hope we continue our unfinished discussions (in Rugby) through internet?

        Regarding the matter of truths, I agree that we must discern what they are.
        Regarding the matter of Jonah, I agree that it is not necessary to interpret literally although it is still possible there can be such a miracle.
        (Personally I do not know whether it is a historic event or a simple story to give a message. I think it would be interesting to check how early Christians, Jews and Jesus himself interpreted this book because this book was written in Jewish tradition).

        Regarding some unpleasant commands and sentences (e.g. killing other tribes) in the Old Testament, I do find it hard to understand. I fully agree that we should not extrapolate such passages since the entire Bible clearly shows that God loves people and does not want anyone to perish.

        However, I think we should not eliminate those sentences because it does not fit to our expectations. We may end up eliminating most events in the Bible (since they involve miracles), and many teachings regarding morality (e.g. marriage, sexuality, etc).. And this process of getting rid of things would be very dependent on our background and culture.

        I would rather accept some tensions (which seems not to be consistent) in the Bible rather than get rid of things we do not understand. What do you think? Please correct me if you see anything wrong.

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  4. I’m not saying eliminate the sentences, but don’t view them as either instructions or as necessarily from God. And don’t use the teaching on morality to judge others – that would be in direct contravention of Jesus’ teaching.

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  5. Sabio Lantz says:

    I agree with your post — well said.
    Have you ever made a book list of Christian writers who you’d recommend to Bible-worshipping Christians to help them arrive at the position you have on how to use Christian scriptures?

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  6. Pingback: Irrelevant church | Thoughts from a Minimalist Christian

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