March 18, 2009

Trying to make sense of God, and Church…

Posted in Books, Musings tagged , , , at 10:27 am by myrlinn

This week, I read two books that are quite interesting for the authors having somewhat opposite journeys:

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (Plus) published 2005

and Josh McDowell’s More Than A Carpenter published 1977.

Bart Ehrman began his journey as a Christian believing staunchly in the inerrancy of the bible. But, by the time he wrote Misquoting Jesus, because of his study of the New Testament through the years, he’s come to see the books of the New Testament as being a product of the authors’ worldviews as well as those of the scribes who sometimes added, subtracted or changed the words of the bible.  He also talks about the unintentional copying errors which made its way into the bible as we know it today.

Josh McDowell, on the other hand, started out as a sceptic and a non-believer who accepted Jesus after as he says failing to prove to himself that Jesus was not who he claimed he was (the book More Than a Carpenter has McDowell setting out his arguments for Jesus being exactly who said he he was/is).

My main thought after reading both, and pondering over their journeys as seekers of truth: It’s not possible to prove the bible to be completely bogus (as Josh McDowell found out); and it’s not possible to prove that the bible is completely true either (as Bart Ehrman found out). Which makes it all so confusing.

What I do feel confident about: that God works in those who ask, seek and listen. How do I know this? Because I have asked, sought and listened and found what I needed. Which is why I think the best part of Josh McDowell’s book is not his “rational” arguments for Jesus being thihe Christ, but “Chapter 11: He Changed My Life” where he talked about praying to God, becoming to a Christian, and how that changed his life within six months to a year. He talked about changes in inner attitudes, in personality, in being able to love and forgive, in being able to touch others with that loving-kindness. That, to me, is the essence of faith, not all the nitty-gritty arguments about which specific beliefs are right, which specific practices are right, which specific words are right.

And, right there, it brings me back to what I state in my last blog post here, that it’s easier to believe in God than to be a member of a particular church. One of the reasons this is at the top of my mind is that I’m now going to a church which emphasises that to be a Christian is to be a changed person, and I find it very useful to go. However, it is also a church which believes in biblical inerrancy and other “fundamentals” which I find extremely difficult to completely believe in.  Somewhat of a dilemma, right? Do I have a right to be in that church because I am a true seeker? Or don’t I have a right because I don’t subscribe to some of their fundamental beliefs? What do you think?


  1. Philippa said,

    Well, I think you have to ask God where He wants you. And if you feel that everything points to this church, well, there you go.

    Personally, I think there are a lot of things that people disagree on. Some believe in complete predestination and some in total free will, and some are somewhere along the line (the bible says both, which is a real paradox). Some believe the bible is inerrant, and some don’t. Some believe you need to be baptized by immersion, some don’t.

    Since the bible pleads hundreds of times for unity, I think we need to agree on the essentials – that there is a God, that His Son Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and that we live with him as our leader, Lord and forgiver. Then for other stuff – well, if the bible tells you to do something like being kind, or helping the needy, or obeying God, would you do it? Keep your relationship with God close by studying His word and praying for His will and avoiding sin, then I think, with grace, that we can let the other stuff go.

    Just my 2 cents. Thanks for posting an interesting question.

  2. Michael L. said,

    I love my church! They preach straight from the word and they say it like it is. We are just a congregation of believers. We have grown and grown over the years and our pastors do not back down from preaching about love or sin! I think I am fortunate. We have people coming and going from all over the world.

  3. This reminds me of a quote by Joseph de Maistre (the original person derided with the phrase “more catholic than the pope”):

    The real authors of the Council of Trent were the two grand innovators of the sixteenth century. Their disciples having become more calm, have since proposed to us to expunge this fundamental law because it contains some hard words for them; and they have endeavoured to tempt us, by indicating to us the possibility of a reunion, on that condition, which would make us accomplices instead of rendering us friends; but this demand is neither theological nor philosophical. They themselves formerly introduced into religious language those words which now weary them. Let us desire that they should now learn to pronounce them. Faith, if a sophistical opposition had never forced her to write, would be a thousand times more angelic: she weeps over these decisions which revolt extorted from her, and which were always evils, since they all suppose doubt or aggression, and could only arise in the midst of the most dangerous commotions. The state of war raised these venerable ramparts around the truth: they undoubtedly protected her, but at the same time concealed her: they rendered her unassailable; but by that very means less accessible. Ah! this is not what she craves, she who would embrace the whole human race in her arms.

  4. myrlinn said,

    Philippa, you mention that the bible pleads for unity. Yet, churches are critical of each other, which makes it quite difficult for members of the church who are more “liberal”, for want of a better term, when the church seems to be saying if you’re not for us, you’re against us.

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