Monthly Archives: November 2017

Ep.14 The Bible (part 1)

In this episode, Cirque du Sola Scriptura, the gents look at whether the Bible is reliable. Paul tells Timothy that all scripture is ‘God-breathed’ and that’s often used to prove Biblical inerrancy (ack of errors), but can we really use the Bible to argue the Bible’s reliability? Can we show Biblical reliability in other ways? Even without inerrancy? And what can the late, great cricketer Donald Bradman teach us (And can we teach all Bible studies through analogies with his life?)

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Produced by Debs McBeany

Episode 2 – The Greatest Novel Never Written

This episode is a re-recording of a light-hearted talk Dangerous gave. It’s about why the Bible can’t be made up and the reason it’s here is that it deals with Biblical dating. We’re talking about what’s and wherefores of the Bible in this month’s episode so it seemed a good idea to get the facts about Biblical dating out the way so we don’t have to slog through them in the episode. We hope you enjoy it and hopefully it helps in your quest.

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The Bible (Letter 8)

Dangerous, old boy!

I think we’re largely agreed on the fact that we should present the Bible as ‘reliable, trustworthy,’ rather than “100% perfect, without flaw, contradiction,” etc. I take on board your note of caution, however, about the dangers of challenging inerrancy. After all, a great number of the heroes of our faith throughout history believed in something like inerrancy, so that’s good enough for me. Moreover, Jesus himself and the Apostles held a literal understanding of many of the more controversial parts of the Jewish Scriptures. I think you’re right that we should steer clear of questioning the Bible’s authority and make the focus of our ongoing discussion: ‘the question of purpose…what do we (or perhaps should we) use the Bible for?’

Turning to that question now, here are several angles we could take:

1.) First, your point that ‘our understanding of God is limited.’ If we present to unbelievers the truth that ‘God’s ways are high above ours,’ and make the point that, as God’s creations, we need guidance, illumination, or (to use a bit of Christian jargon), ‘revelation,’ to understand our creator, then the Bible exists partly to help us in our search. It’s there to sharpen our understanding, challenge our preconceptions and show us Christ.

2.) The Bible exists to act as an objective arbitrator when Christians (or others) differ in their opinions and understandings. As an extension of point one, if we are naturally limited in our understanding of God, then we are going to draw different conclusions from time to time. Instead of relying only on our subjective perspectives and fighting, we should all submit to God’s objective truth as set forth in the Scriptures (easier said than done!).

3.) Christianity is essentially a witness testimony that something real, tangible and historical occurred in 1st century Palestine. The first apostles witnessed Jesus’ resurrection and handed it down through the generations to us. As such, the Bible exists to tell us about this (and other) historical events: it is a record of what God has done for us.

4.) The Bible reminds us about God’s grace and steers us away from religion, but showing us that flawed, messed-up people can still be used by God. Rather than a religious textbook, it is an account of the lives of men and women who have walked with God, warts and all.

I hope that helps as a starting point for answering your question!


Sir Tom

Ep.13 The Greatest Novel Never Written

It’s Bible month here at unspokenchurch with both our podcasts taking a gander at the Good Book. Rather than get tangled up in Biblical dating (the historical type, not the fun type) we thought we’d re-record a light-hearted talk Dangerous gave on the topic. It’s a sort of prologue, or scene setter, if you will. Also mighty useful against those that tell you the Bible is made up to control people…

The Bible (Letter 7)

Sir Tom,


I think your 3 points are really the formation of, in terms of a backbone, the episode.

I’m not sure how we tackle point 1 without tackling society’s philosophy. A greater issue as postmodernism/subjectivism is not a philosophy that is overt. Our generation(s?) and younger would not admit (or ever think about) that they hold to a philosophy of any kind. Ergo, it’s tough to get them to change it. The other issue there is that people don’t like being told what to do, or, more so, what to do and how to do it.

I think that’s it! Not reliability, but relevance. As we talk through what the Bible is we need to show that it’s still relevant. A subjective generation will still take on things they feel are relevant to them.

Point 3 is very interesting, isn’t it. As with point 1 it’s hard to get Christians to understand this because they don’t see it. If you told them they worshiped the Bible, they would simply disagree and say they use the Bible to worship God. This is something I hope to discuss on this month’s Stuff Podcast (also on the Bible!).

Point 2 is linked into the question of how we read the Bible. Can we really take it all as words from God or does it make more sense as a handbook? As you say it’s complex and sometimes baffling. Again this is more the realms of the Stuff podcast, but it is good to have in our minds. I think for us the question is of purpose. What do we (or perhaps should we) use the Bible for?

If someone is listening to the podcast to grasp the fundamentals of the faith, then what part does the Bible play? How can it help us in our faith and in our life? Is it still relevant or outdated?

It vexes me because to question inerrancy is basically to question Christianity in it’s present form. To reshape theology as we know it. That’s a big call. Are we up to it? Should we be doing it?

Just a note on whether we question parts of the Bible that do not gel with God’s character. I think this is dangerous as it relies on our understanding of God’s character which is very limited. We must remember that we have no place to cry unjust or unfair; God can do what He likes with His creations in the same way we can build and destroy anything we want when we play with Lego. It is not for the bricks to decide.




The Bible (Letter 6)


Given our remit (to tackle the fundamentals of Christianity afresh, for the benefit of outsiders to the faith) this is one of the most vital discussions we need to have. I say this because ‘The Bible,’ itself often constitutes a stumbling block to would-be Christians. I have had at least three discussions with unbelieving friends over the years, in which they have effectively told me: “I would be a Christian if it wasn’t for the Bible.” Why is this? I would suggest three underlying reasons:

1.) In our Post-truth culture, people are extremely wary of absolutists and especially absolutists who hold to ancient Scriptures. I think the fear many people have is that Christians, Muslims or others hold to outdated teachings in an unthinking way, holding their emotions and intellects at arm’s length. In response, our reading of the Bible needs to engage emotions and intellect.

2.) Let’s be honest, the Bible is complex and at face value, its moral lessons are baffling. Examples include the perplexing Levitical code and the Apostle Paul’s apparent disdain for women. I say ‘at face value,’ because I think one of the lessons we need to learn is that it’s OK to read the Bible carefully and intelligently, rather than from a confrontational, simplistic, “this I know ‘cos the Bible tells me so,” stance. But nevertheless, I think people are interested in God, but sometimes put off by the Bible.

3.) Some Christians give the (misguiding) impression that the Bible ITSELF is God, rather than Jesus. You can’t put the cart before the horse: I only grew to love the Bible after my Christian conversion. Beforehand, I remember telling my Dad, “the Bible is dead to me,” because it was. You can only love God’s word when you first love God. So I think unbelievers are frankly baffled by Christians’ devotion for the good book. We need to push Jesus first, Bible second.

With all this in mind and turning to your two questions, I think we need to be upfront with believers that although the Bible is ‘reliable,’ and ‘trustworthy,’ it is also troublesome and you can still be a Christian while living and walking with uncertainty about the Scriptures. If you give people an ultimatum – it’s either completely perfect, easy and infallible or it’s not – you’ll likely put people off. In other words, as you have said, ‘the Bible is true, separate from inerrancy.’

So to your second question. I would be open to more radical voices in the Evangelical fold who are moving towards an altogether fresh approach to the question of ‘how we read the Bible.’ For example, if the Bible attributes an action to God which really seems to jar with the character of God as revealed in Christ, could we consider that the writers of the Bible falsely attributed that action. The best example are the so-called ‘genocide,’ passages where God apparently commands the Israelites to slaughter whole nations, ‘women and children,’ included. If you want to read more, Steve Chalke’s paper on the Scriptures (‘Restoring Confidence in the Bible’) is helpful and can be found on the ‘Oasis’ website. The drawback of this idea is clearly that it is subsequently difficult to define which accounts are reliable and which are not. But whatever the case, I agree that this is, as you say,’the big one.’ One approach as we move forward might be for you and I to target these so-called ‘difficult’ passages in our discussions.

Anyway, let me know what you think, great mate. SMASHY.

Sir Tom

The Bible (Letter 5)

Sir Tom,

So here we are again and as we focus this month on the Bible I think there are 2 things to keep in mind.

  1. Biblical reliability. This was why I wanted to do the Bible before Jesus, because when one talks about Jesus one uses the Bible; we talk about prophecies of His life and death, but they only work if we can believe that they are true.
  2. How do we read the Bible? This is the big one, isn’t it? What’s the purpose of the Bible? And that depends on our views of inerrancy, infallibility and Sola Scriptura.

So let’s unpack number 1, get on the same page (or at least know which pages we’re both on). My first big deal is Old Testament dating. I don’t see any issue with taking scholarly dating of the Bible (even though that disqualifies inerrancy) because scholars agree that the books of the OT are based on earlier writings. I don’t want to go too far down this road, but it does lead to 2 interesting points. Firstly, there’s no need. If they’re made up then you only need to date them to their earliest manuscript. Secondly, where is the REAL Israelite history?

So we know that the Bible is reliable because the claims against the Bible don’t stack up. That being said a lot of the issues with the Bible in terms of contradictions are solved by taking the Document Hypothesis of multiple sources being used to construct the first books of the Bible.

So the problem is really not with the historicity of the Bible, but really with a rejection of magic. Magical stuff happens in the Bible, therefore it must be made up. That being said, I think anyone would be hard pressed to point to anything in history or science that says magic can’t happen.

I think we need to talk about this somewhat explicitly in the podcast, but I also think it needs to run through everything we say. The idea that at each point this is reliable, this is true. And true separate from inerrancy. I don’t think it is good enough just to say ‘yeah it’s all true and reliable because the Bible can’t be wrong’.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts,