Discussing
Can Bible teachers question the Bible?

Andy Rau

James McGrath
April 29, 2008

The people who say "The Bible is never to be questioned" are people who have never studied it in a serious way, know it at best superficially, and have never used an academic commentary or read some other serious scholarly book about the Bible. "The Bible is never to be questioned" is a slogan used by those who want to be able to quote the Bible out of context to settle matters, or to pass on the responsability of wrestling with difficult issues to others who misuse the Bible in this way.<br><br>We need to stop putting up with the rhetoric of the fundamentalists who pretend to have a moral or Biblical high ground by using such slogans as this, or as "<i>I</i> believe the whole Bible and take it literally". They can only claim this because they read the Bible in English translations that smooth over difficulties for them, and don't know the Bible in sufficient depth and detail to know what the real issues are. Yet they have the audacity to claim that their approach is superior to that of people who recognize the problems not because they are less spiritual, but because <i>they know the Bible better</i>.<br>

Trudyj
April 29, 2008

I think the idea that "The Bible is not to be questioned!!" is one of the scariest I have ever heard. How do you shut off the part of your braint that questions, and why would God want you to?

Jonathan
April 29, 2008

Of the four questions listed, only the first (Jesus' birthplace) could really be considered "questioning" the Bible.<br><br>Concerning Jesus' profession, this is not a matter of questioning the Bible. It's merely a question of what the word "tekton" actually means. According to the Louw and Nida lexicon, "one who uses various materials (wood, stone, and metal) in building — ‘builder, carpenter.’ ... There is every reason to believe that in biblical times one who was regarded as a tekton would be skilled in the use of wood and stone and possibly even metal." It may be shocking to some to think of Jesus as a stone-cutter, but the Greek clearly permits this translation.<br><br>Similarly, the motive behind Jesus' temple action is not a matter of questioning the Bible. It's not as if the Bible told us precisely what Jesus' thoughts are as he takes on this action.<br><br>Likewise, the Bible doesn't tell us that there is no truth at all in the Gnostic gospels, though their central assumptions are obviously not consistent with Scripture.<br><br>I would distinguish between challenging the veracity of Scripture and challenging traditional interpretations. I think we as Christians need to be firmly committed to the Bible as God's reliable word to us. Therefore, we should be eager to understand it accurately, even if that means rejecting traditional interpretations.

Sheldon
April 29, 2008

James 3:1 says<br>"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (NIV)<br><br>the issue here is that Kent is in a position of authority on God's word.

Jeff
April 29, 2008

I think any well meaning sound Christians questions and doubts. Hey just read scripture and see all the doubts and unanswered questions. Once again and sadly many Christians can not deal with this and quickly denounce someone for bringing up legitimate concerns. Is every word of the bible written and spoken by God, hardly for it is man's interpretation and mans translation not God's. But the essence of who God is, who Christ is and the redemptive story are all intact. Will we fall from grace, and Christianity become another myth if we learn that the story as we know it of Jesus' birth is not accurate, hardly. We might remember the wise words spoken from Paul in Romans 2:1 when dealing with our brothers and sisters as particularly the world.

Amy B
April 29, 2008

What a difficult issue! <br><br>I think a lot of it depends on the spirit in which questioning is done, and it depends on your fundamental posture towards God's revelation. Any questioning should be done in the spirit of truth and humility, submitting ultimately to God's revelation of Himself, not as we would have Him or have history be.<br><br>But as Sheldon points out, there is a whole other dimension to this issue when you are talking about people in positions of authority. Our sermon this week was on Jesus' warning that it would be better to be drowned in the sea then to cause another sin. This is a warning to be taken very seriously before a leader of any kind begins asking questions which could scandalize and damage the faith of those in his or her care. If they are questions which may lead to a deeper faith and understanding. But if they are questions which will only lead to further doubt and darkness - I don't a spiritual leader should ever lead someone in that way, even if it be the path they are struggling on themselves.

Charles
April 30, 2008

I think there's a difference between questioning and doubting. As a follower of Christ, I hold that the Bible is without error or contradiction. Therefore, I do not doubt that what it says is true, both in history and in teaching. So when history seems to contradict the Bible, I must ask questions - but not ask in a way that would undermine the truth of God's word. The question - if we are questioning the Bible in a doubting way - really becomes "Is God really able to preserve truth for us accurately?" And that comes to doubting and not believing in God. That's ground that I won't step on.

Pete
April 30, 2008

I questioned the bible. and found that within it pages was not perfection. but within it's pages was the story of God. written by inspired but mere men. men who could be sexist, racist, genocidal. <br><br>There are three kinds of "christians"<br><br>those who think everything is the bible is literally true, and koala bears were on the ark. (the bible is totally perfect/divine)<br>those who think we cannot know anything for sure, so we should love. (the bible is human/fallible)<br><br>and the third....those who have experienced Jesus and use the bible as the origin and touchstone of faith. just because we have learned that there was no literal adam and eve does not mean that Jesus did not rise from the dead and transform all of history.<br><br>the bible is both awesome and able to connect you to god. it is also an earthen vessel, just like all of us. Why would god become flesh if the "important" stuff was coming out in hardback with footnotes?<br><br>Jesus is the final WORD. the bible is just the written, inspired by god record of the people of god experiencing god.

D. P.
April 30, 2008

I know exactly how I feel about that! Skeptics and seekers question the Bible all the time. If Christians don't do the same, how can they answer the questions unbelievers ask? If we can't take the time and effort to "test all things," how will we know how to "hold fast to what is good" (1 Thess 5:21) when exposed to the negative assessments others make of the Bible? That upset parent had better not let his or her children ever go to college or even have any non-Christian friends...

John
April 30, 2008

The bible is the word of God, inspired by God given to man. Many who have not had the opportunity to be with God will question the bible. Those who know God will use the bible to help themselves and others to understand what we are to do for God. I have asked questions of others to better understand what has been written. I have never questioned weather his word was true or just an explanation of something. When you doubt the word of God, you doubt God. Please remember he came to give us what we needed to come home. If you doubt that, pray and pray hard so that you will know the truth. We are in difficult times where information of all kinds will penetrate your every moment. The great deciever wants you to doubt and will tell you,"Is every word of the bible written and spoken by God, hardly for it is man's interpretation and man's translation not God's, JEFF". He wants you to believe that man wrote the bible without any help from God and that you should doubt what is said. In God's Grace John

YT
April 30, 2008

I frequently have questions in the bible that "I do not understand something". BUT I do not question "the truth" in the Bible. I will pray to ask the Lord to give me the insights so that I will understand<br><br>If I question "the truth", it also means that I am questioning the WORD, which also means the LORD Jesus, which also means "GOD the Father", which also means that I do not believe the Trinity God yet ...<br><br>Therefore, questioning "the truth" is totally different from questioning something that I do not understand but without doubting the truth. But, I do not know where Kent Dobson stands ...<br><br>Isn't it common nowadys that the liberal media takes the first statement above out of context by just taking the first seven words (i.e. I frequently have questions in the bible) without displaying the rest?<br><br>One thing I personally hold firmly that I should "NOT" (never) teach the Bible (Sunday school) if I do not believe "the truth" in the Bible ... It is almost the same as letting Non-Christian teaching the Bible, the WORD ... It is the same as what Jesus said that ... the blind is leading the blinds ... Also I like what Sheldon said with James 3:1 ...<br>

SiarlysJenkins
April 30, 2008

At any rate, we must all question our understanding of what the Bible is meant to tell us. Not only are we fallible mortal readers, we are all reading translations. An orthodox Hebrew rabbi told me that without studying the original Hebrew for forty years, you can't know what it really means. Since we can't all do that, I appreciate translations, but they do contain errors. Examples: The Hebrew word tzela has been translated as "rib," but it really means side. God took one side of an androgynous Adam, made in the complete image of God, and from one side made isha, the woman, from the other side, ish, the man. That puts a whole different meaning on everything. And the Hebrews, who ought to know, recall that Jeptha's daughter lived a life of devotion to God, and never married or had children, not that her father did so blasphemous a thing as to burn her on the altar. Unfortunately, someone substituted a Greek word in translation. Instead of "to elevate" -- the original Hebrew meaning, the translator used a Greek word for burnt sacrifice. Big difference. So by all means study what is available, but each English translation differs, and none can be assumed authoritative. Hopefully we can at least glean some basic principles about how to live our lives, but let's not slaughter our neighbors over some perceived slight just because God told Saul to slay the Amorites. And by the way, I can find the outline of evolutionary biology in Genesis, so we don't need to keep up that debate as science vs. Scripture either. If science can find it, God must have ordained it.

Wezlo
April 30, 2008

What Jesus born in Bethlehem? Sure. It seems to be a point in two of the Gospels, and the fact that a theological reasoning is given doesn't mean that he wasn't born there - just that Matthew and Luke specifically mention it for a theological purpose. It may be that the mentioning of Bethlehem was just for theological purposes - it's a point that I agree with, but it's kinda something I shrug at.<br><br>I have no idea why Jesus being a stone-mason or a carpenter is a big issue - it's a translation problem.<br><br>Was Jesus’ eviction of money changers from the temple a political or religious move? The answer is, "Yes." There was no division between religion and political power in that world. To attack one was to attack the other (remember who set up the Temple Jesus worshiped and taught in - and who was peering over it's walls).<br><br>Is there some truth in the gnostic gospels? Why not? At the very least they use some Q material that's found in the synoptics. In the end, who cares? They weren't used in Christian worship, and not included in the canon, for a reason - the picture they painted of Jesus wasn't consistent with apostolic teaching. To say that there's "some truth" in the merely acknowledges that they are a tangential path which sprang from similar material - and yet split off from where we are. No worries.

Christiane Li
April 30, 2008

Is this a trick question? Can Bible teachers question the Bible: well, of course they can! My college professor of Old Testament (an ordained minister) considered the book of Genesis to be mere Hebrew mythology, a source of minor historical importance and less accurate than the Epic of Gilgamesh. (He also laughingly told the class he worshiped at the shrine of our championed football team; after studying under him, I have no doubt that he definitely did lay all his intellectual gift on that particular altar). <br><br>My only problem with shows like this one is that they are invariably lopsided; they rarely give equal space to educated ministers and theologians who would provide much needed balance and who could eloquently present the Bible believing 'other side.' And these educated believers, fluent in Hebrew and Greek, graduates of some of our toughest universities and seminaries, are plentiful. Timothy George and Norman Geisler spring immediately to mind. <br><br>The Bible calls itself authoritative and inspired, claims to be written by the Holy Spirit Himself. So I think the real question here is: Can a believer, while teaching others, question the Bible's authority? And the answer to THAT one is, No (see John 17:20, where the Lord Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms how important it is to be grounded in the Word - it is literally the foundation of our faith). <br><br>I confess I don't understand the furor over what Dobson did; I like D.P.s point about the context of genuine doubt and true seeking, which God will always honor with an answer (seek and you shall find), and it seems to me this was Dobson's target audience.

Rick
April 30, 2008

This is a question of wisdom. While I agree completely with Siarlys (and usually do) and Wezlo, my problem was one of context and nuances. I watched a bit when it appeared and then switched channels. I had no idea Kent was a believer, I just assumed this was part of the same phenomenom that happens every Easter, "It's time to debunk the Easter story." Why do the networks feel the obligation to drag out the same old notorious anti-Biblical historians from the mis-named Jesus Seminar (Marcus Borg and Jon Dominic Crossan’s) year after year to debunk the Bible? If I were Kent, I would not have participated. He says that what he believed as a young man is may not be the gospel truth. Is there a better way of saying that? Could the qualifiers and nuances that Siarlys introduces be included? Kent is naive and unwise to let himself be used in a Easter special whose purpose is to cast doubt on the entire Bible. The Jesus Seminar is one of the most destructive anti-faith groups, minority historians, who reject any supernatural miracle, deny the resurrection under the guise of Bible experts and the network loves them year after year.

John
May 1, 2008

I have read over all of the comments in this section and find it disturbing that so many question or have doubts about the bible. We are in times of great difficulty, just look at some of the major cities and the crime rate, cult activities and young people killing eachother randomly. Again, he is the great deciever and this article has given him yet another opportunity to bring doubt and suspension to the for front. I'm disturbered at the comments, test all things, I think any well meaning sound Christian questions and doubts, and how do you shut off the part of the brain that questions, or would God want you to. These are from what has been written here and they disturb me. So I ask, should we question God, because we doubt what is written only written by man? The answer is NO, we are to love God and all he does for us everyday. We are to love one another and help eachother in everyday challenges. Satan wants you to question and doubt God, he wants you to say oh, that old man doesn't know what he is writing about. Doubt God and question why he does things, be a man, do it yourself; after all God gave you the power to choose. I choose God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In God's Grace John

Mary
May 2, 2008

I don't see anything wrong with asking the 4 questions above. I don't agree that the bible should never be questioned. It is the Truth, we do not need to be afraid to ask question, after all, the final answer will show that it is an unshakable truth.<br>It is sad to see that it became such a big issue that Kent Dobson has to resign from his job.<br>As for me (I didn't see the show), if he raised a question and brought up all the discussion and facts, but without making a firm conclusion, it is great. I think he is a good teacher. That leads the viewers to think, with all the discussion/facts he has given (assuming he did), the viewers should know how to make the right conclusion. The bible teaches us to use our brain,<br>Psalm 32:9 - Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.<br>If he didn't give enough facts for the viewers to make a right conclusion, I think pressure him to resign, is a punishment far too severe. He should be adviced how to improve the presentation of the question with its facts.<br>In this case, I think we lose a talented bible teacher.

Christiane Li
May 2, 2008

I appreciate your response Mary, and I agree with you that the Bible is Truth unshakable; but this is just where the controversy enters in - the Bible was ripped as being unreliable (at best) and no-one stood up for the Bible as being reliable Truth. Rick is quite right to point out it was most unwise on Dobson's part to allow himself to placed in this situation, to allow the Bible to be deconstructed without accurately representing the other side, either by his own words or by knowledgeable believers. I must say here that if Dobson does not believe the Scriptures to be authoritative, I believe it is right for him to be removed from his teaching position at a school which apparently does believe in the authority of Scripture.

SiarlysJenkins
May 2, 2008

The Gospel according to Luke not only makes no mention of the flight into Egypt, but says quite explicitly that after the days of purification following childbirth were completed, Mary and Joseph took the baby to Jerusalem, and then went home to Nazareth. We know what Richard Dawkins would make of that, but I don't consider him an authority on anything, including evolution. I can only conclude that this kind of detail, whether historically accurate, or mistaken rumor, or parable, is not essential to the unshakable truth we are meant to find in Scripture.

Chris Wu
May 18, 2008

i am from hongkong, china (sorry for my poor english), after i watched the discovery tv prog. and the resigned of dobson, i feel disappointed about the bible school. i think a jesus follower can raised questions about bible according to fact and logical mind.

Jaggen
May 19, 2008

I think the viewers of this program got off light. If Dobson had really got to work, he would have uncovered theories of how the Romans were bribed to remove Jesus from the cross before he died, and speared another man so they could take him down quickly saying Jesus was now dead. Writings confirming these events also mention that Jesus went to India, where there is ample evidence of his travels there; hense the similarity to Budhism in his later teachings reveal.

Mark
May 25, 2008

I beleave we all should question Christianity and the Bible and search for the truth.<br>We all should check what the QURAN (1400 year old sripture) says about Jesus and Mary (Peace be upone them), and follow our hearts.

Scott
April 5, 2009

As Christians I believe that we need to be unafraid to ask questions of the Bible especially in public situations. I don't feel that Kent Dobson did anything wrong in hosting this show and asking the questions he did. I don't even think there is anything wrong with leaving the questions unanswered in the show. Especially as a High School Bible teacher it is imperative to have someone like Mr. Dobson making the students question the Bible and search for answers. As a pastor's child raised in a Christian home I have always been surrounded by Christianity, and Biblical teachings. But because of my own research into scripture and the manuscripts that now make up the Bible I became stronger in my belief and would have loved to have a teacher like Mr. Dobson to cause me to do this earlier in my life. <br><br>If students aren't taught to find out the truth of the word for themselves as opposed to just a blind following of what their pastors, parents, and teachers tell them. They will be at a serious disadvantage when faced with the world outside of the church and the christian school. I don't know much about Northpointe but it sounds similar to a school in my home town. I had a friend who went to that school on a community soccer team and when she was forced to interact with people who did not believe the same way she did she couldn't handel it and eventually quit the soccer team because she overheard one of the other players swear when talking to someone else. If we live a life that sheltered there is no way that the Gospel will be spread.<br><br>So in closing I am not afraid public questioning of the Bible. Because I feel someone searching for Truth will eventually find their way to God.

markm1
March 15, 2010

this can go the other way too. As someone in authority, he is responsible for questioning and making sure that what he is teaching is true, and not by blind faith. i would never trust someone in authority who does not question their faith and especially the bible. They, more so than anyone else should question.

Cathy Creswell
April 7, 2011

So right. Christians are afraid to question. They are shouted down, preached at, have their faith questioned and followed by well meaning christians to put a harsh spotlight on all their behavior. They are treated like guilty suspects. I applaud Kent for his bravery. He is a pk and a pastor, he has a lot to lose.

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