Can we really trust the Bible – every word? And if it contains any mistakes, can we believe any of it at all?
The basis for trusting the whole Bible is the radical claim God has revealed Himself to us, in word, action and in the person of Jesus. Since God is all-knowing and truthful, His Spirit-breathed word is completely true and trustworthy, and carries His authority over our lives.
Steve Chalke recently suggested that on the contrary, the Bible is not divine revelation but conversation. In his article Have We Misread the Bible? he says that the Bible is in no way infallible or inerrant (that is, free from mistakes and errors). By doing this, he aims to remove barriers to contemporary people having confidence in the Bible.
But the way I see it, no matter how good Chalke’s intentions, if we stop trusting God has spoken completely truthfully in the Bible, we cross a watershed. Our ultimate authority changes from God’s Word to our own opinions. We stop believing Christianity and start believing Pick’n’mixianity. What are the results?
1) Pick’n’mixianity makes it easy to avoid uncomfortable truths
If the Bible contains mistakes, then it becomes easy to dismiss anything uncomfortable or counter-cultural as a human mistake, rather than from God.
2) Pick’n’mixianity can’t be proved true or false
If we keep believing bits of the Bible even when it’s mistaken, how do we know which bits are true? How do we know any of it is true? Pick’n’mixianity can’t be disproved, because anything wrong gets attributed to human error, while still believing its supposed ‘spiritual’ truths. A faith that can’t be tested is unreal and not worth believing.
3) Pick’n’mixianity discredits our faith
If we reject the parts of the Bible that seem offensive to our culture, people might like us more. But our faith loses its credibility as truth when we edit it to fit with contemporary values. If we don’t believe all the Bible, people will wonder why we bother clinging onto any of the Bible. But if we embrace and grapple with the whole Bible, I think we’ll see the opposite to Pick’n’mixianity:
1) Believing the whole Bible compels us to ask hard questions
If it’s all true, we can’t avoid the difficult bits. We ask questions and grapple with the texts, asking God for help to interpret them correctly and in context. Because we have a good God, we know everything He reveals will be good when we really understand it.
2) Believing the whole Bible gives confidence our faith is true
If the Bible is really true, it will stand up to honest, humble scrutiny. We can go to history, science, philosophy and so on to examine its claims. If they disprove its claims, then we will need to admit our faith is mistaken, and not cling onto whatever bits and pieces we still find appealing. But if they confirm the reliability of the Bible, then it continues to demand our belief and obedience.
3) Believing the whole Bible wins respect if we live by it
If the Bible is from God, we should expect it to challenge each of us in every culture in some way. It’s not enough just to say we believe the whole Bible while pick’n’mixing the bits we live by. Our faith will have credibility when our whole lives are shaped by radical obedience to all that the Bible teaches, especially Jesus’s call to sacrificial love.
For me, trusting the whole Bible is true has raised many questions. For example, what does it really say about Creation? About Hell? About the role of women? I’ve doubted and explored and questioned whether the Bible is historically accurate, scientifically true, and morally good.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know I can’t find them in Pick’n’mixianity. Instead I will keep on asking and going deeper, all while trusting that God speaks truthfully and clearly – only from Him can we have answers that are certain.