Good Faith Questioning Is Not the Enemy

Hello Joselito, is papaafful the writer of the article? At any rate, to your question, I agree with the portions you circled. I haven’t read the two pieces mentioned in the article, only the article’s critique of what they said.

My issue is that the article mentions that the Bible itself asks us to prove all things and hold what is true, and that the berean’s searched the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. And these texts are used to imply we should test if portions of the Bible are true and reliable. And I would argue that the Berean’s were using the Bible to determine if what Paul said was true, thereby measuring what Paul said by the Bible. And when the Bible commands us to test all things it means to test what is taught to us against what the Bible says. In other words use the Bible to prove if what others are saying is true. Those verses do not mean to test and see if portions of the Bible are true or not.

Last point, the author mentions that all scripture is open to critique, but bu that logic we’ll not be able to even prove God’s existence at all. What verifiable objective evidence do we have that God exists.

We should definitely keep an open mind and study scripture as Jesus commands us to, but it’s to learn what scripture has to say, not to determine if it’s true or not, that would end the Christian church completely.

If you visit Egypt and ask about Israel, you will find that there is no evidence that Israel was ever in Egypt. None what so ever. There is only one reference. One of the Pharaohs commented that “we finally got rid of those pesky Israelites”. Furthermore, If you take the time frame of the so called “Exodus”, Egypt occupied Cannen all the way to Syria. Israel could not enter Cannen at that time. They had to wait till the Hittites drove them out. If this is hard to stomach, just look up the actual history. That fact is, its a made up story. Didn’t happen.


According to Ussher’s chronology, the earth is 6,000 years old. That comes from him reading the biblical genealogies as a literal history of the earth and its age. According to biblical cosmology, the sky functions to separate the waters of chaos above from the waters below, and that there were three literal solar days before a sun was in the sky. And, there is an abode for the dead, a region underneath the earth itself. According to the OT, approximately 2,000,000 people trekked across the desert for forty years from Egypt to Canaan, now Israel. However, there is not a shred of archaeological evidence that this happened.

I believe the Bible is communicating truth about God, about our human condition, and about how God wants to relate to human beings, and his entire creation. I believe that the biblical writers were inspired with messages from God that they communicated to people within their own cultures, that reflected their own understanding of God, and of their world. How they communicated such truth reflects how they did history, how they told stories, and the cosmology they understood. It doesn’t reflect the way we do history or science today. God communicated with these writers and audiences within their worlds in ways they could understand, not in ways that would have been totally alien to them. This is the way inspiration works. It is an enculturated affair.

That means the Bible, and the way it communicates, is alien to us. It was written for us, not to us. This also means that in certain senses, we must read the Bible critically if we wish to understand it for what it is saying and trying to communicate, rather than create a modern distortion of what it’s saying and communicating.

Finally, Jesus himself is the greatest example of this. If we want to understand him and how God revealed himself in Jesus, we must understand him as a first century Jewish man and rabbi in Judea, speaking to people within that culture. Jesus wasn’t speaking of quantum physics or of modern case law to them. He was a Jew, living within that culture, speaking largely to fellow Jews within the same culture, and revealing the truth of God to them in ways that related to them, and could be understood by them. The NT writers brought this to the wider Greco Roman world in ways that spoke to people within that wider culture as well.

This means that we are called to understand Jesus, the gospels, and the NT in the same way. We are the secondary audience, having to learn how to parse what was being said to the primary audiences of the NT and its world, and not uncritically place our modern lenses on the text. This is critical reading. Without it, we distort the Bible and our understanding of God and Jesus himself, by trying to defend our modern literalist interpretation of the biblical text. This causes us to then misapply the text to our own world and lives today. The results are all around us in the culture wars we see between the fundamentalist Christian church and science, history, etc.

We become so busy trying to defend the distortions we have created of the biblical text, that we can’t even really read it for what it’s saying anymore. It is a religion of fear and close mindedness, rather than of confidence in God and openness to his world and engaging creatively with his world.



Hello Frank, I hear what you’re saying and agree but only partially. Yes we must try and understand the world Jesus lived in and the principles behind His teachings to rightly apply the principle to our modern day scenarios. Understanding His culture is very important to gain a proper understanding of what He sought to teach.

But where I don’t agree is where we dismiss parts of the Bible as not literal because WE can’t imagine or understand how they could have occurred. For example, a simple question: do you believe God created man and woman from the dust of the ground and breathed life unit their fully formed bodies and that’s the origin of our race?

Would love to hear and continues this discussion based on your response.

I’m not saying that parts of the Bible are not literal, although there are obviously symbolic portions. I’m saying that how an ancient Hebrew audience understood these stories literally, were different from what we and modern fundamentalism thinks is a literal reading of them.

Contemporary conservative Christianity reads Genesis as a text book that gives a scientific and historical account of origins in the way we understand and do science and history. The ancient Hebrews, while fully believing the text as they heard it read to them, had no conception of doing history or science in the ways we do. Genesis did not mean that to them. Genesis was not giving them God’s science for all time. It was written by inspired writers with whom God communicated according to their cosmological understandings, and narrated in the way they told stories in ancient cultures.

We have to not just translate words from ancient Hebrew to modern English…the expositor needs to translate culture. A much trickier business. Language and words are locked into cultures and cultural understandings and assumptions, whether our own today, or ancient Hebrew culture.

So no, it’s not as simple as saying what I think a literal reading of Genesis 1 or 2 is. It’s first what an ancient writer and audience first understood them to mean. Then we can move forward from there.



I asked the question because in your previous response you mentioned a set of teachings which by how you expressed them lead me to believe you did not take them as literal.

And I’m sorry but your second response isn’t clear or sufficient to me. I asked what you believed. You say we have to first understand what an ancient audience would have understood. Ok well, what would they have understood and how does that impact your interpretation? It shouldn’t be that complicated to answer the question I posed, do you interpret genesis as stating that God created mankind, fully formed, and gave him life and that is the origin of our race? I believe ancient audiences would have believed this to be true. Paul mentions that God made all men from one blood, so he took it literally. Do you? This question matters…

Yes, I believe God created mankind. Do I believe it happened with three evenings and mornings with no sun in the sky, with stars that are only six thousand years old, with a sky that separates the waters of chaos above from those below, with a talking serpent (which was viewed by an ancient Hebrew audience as a chaos creature, the devil being attributed to it only much later in biblical history), etc? No.

Iow, there’s too much in the story that is embedded in ancient cosmology and ways of telling stories that are vastly different from what we understand from just a cursory knowledge of science and history today. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe God is creator. I do. It means that I don’t find Genesis to be a description of exactly how it happened. It was how the ancient Hebrews told and understood and believed the story…which was similar to how other cultures told their creation stories. It was also a polemic directed at those other stories.

It also doesn’t mean that I have to reject the Bible’s salvation story and Paul’s two Adams. Even if one doesn’t see Genesis literally, it’s obvious that mankind has real problems that we can’t find our way out of. Look at what’s happening now in Ukraine. All our learning, technology, has not and cannot solve our problems. I believe the biblical idea of sin and God’s solution in Jesus as what will solve our dilemma.

My life was changed by Jesus. Millions of lives still are. I don’t see anything better than him. Jesus is the restart of mankind, and our hope.


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I can say amen to so much of what you said! Jesus is the only hope for our world. And we could discuss alternate explanations to some of the issues you mentioned. We can look at the commonalities between the creation stories or the flood stories and say “the Bible story is just one of many” .” The Bible writers borrowed from other ancient writings and applied the stories to their understanding of God”. But I would argue the opposite, the fact that so many ancient cultures have similar flies stories tells me that it was an actual event that over time stayed in the collective histories of all those descendants of Noah and was modified, distorted, and simply changed because of human error over time. But I believe they point to a common literal event.

And the reason I asked about your belief of creation of man. I think there are unintended consequences of not believing in a creation as presented in Genesis. For one thing, if life slowly evolved over long periods of time, then death and suffering and killing where all part of God’s creation king before man ever sinned. That changes God’s character as presented in Genesis. God gave Adam and Eve a perfect and “very good” world. A paradise. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t see how your interpretation of creation allows for the paradise presented in genesis. And if God did not directly form and make a fully formed human and give them life, then we were never perfect. We never had a chance to be perfect. Then when truly was the “first sin”? What kind of a loving God would create a bloody, deadly, full of brutal suffering world for the creature He supposedly loves?

I’m glad we both have found in Jesus the only hope for the type of world we’re all searching for. And I’m glad we’ve both found peace in Christ. As only He can give peace. But I see so many issue that could not be resolved theologically if we do not accept the genesis account. I think it seeks to resolve the apparent contradiction with science but it creates many more issues theologically. There are many more but I mentioned the one I think is most important. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts…

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Great article, Matthew - so much here to digest. It seems that pre-conceived ideas are still haunting the Hermeneutics Committee, as they study how to keep pre-conceived ideas out of the Hermeneutics Committee!

Just wanted to clarify one thing: you said “After years-long Women’s Ordination debates, a vote at that meeting (2015 GC Session) chose to reject allowing women into full gospel ministry.” My understanding of the question that day was: should the privilege of ordaining women be extended to the Divisions (rather than keep that privilege at the Conference level), and the answer was no. Nothing changed that day.

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The flood stories seem to point to a literal event, it’s just that it wasn’t a world wide flood as we take it to be. It was more likely a cataclysmic, regional one. The language that we translate earth and from which we assume round globe simply means land in Hebrew. They didn’t have a global concept in the way we do. Neither does the geological record bear out a global flood.

Israel’s version of the story is the only one having to do with moral reasons. The Babylonian version says that the gods sent the flood because humans made too much noise and were a disturbance to them. The Hebrew story ties it to human wickedness, violence, etc. Again, it was a polemical telling of the story, setting Israel’s one God against the pagan deities. The message and truth of it is intact, even without it being a global event. God brings non order to the land, as in the beginning, and out of the waters of chaos brings order, function, and blessing through Noah, who is faithful.

As far as issues with a different reading of the creation story, I’ll have to have more time.


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