Miracles

I am in a reading group with some UW Madison students regarding contemporary debates in the philosophy of religion. We are using a text edited by one of my former professors in seminary, which at some level reminds me of the quality I had in this professor. The subject from last week was on miracles.

Miracles by definition should not be expected to happen every day and in every situation. In fact, if they did, they would not be all that miraculous (please take time to think about this thought). If they happened all the time they would be part of the regular sequence of nature, or at least a regular interruption of nature that could be counted on. Sometimes, as a Pastor, I might sound like the bad guy for saying that miracles are irregular events. But, I think this is part of the heritage of our Christian teaching, and the hard work of being intellectually honest.

Moreover, every miraculous report should not be believed. I think the New Testament itself bears witness to discerning all things. The early church often had to deal with other religious groups that made regular and wild claims about supernatural things. Christians were warned to test everything.

One part I really enjoyed from the book reading had to with evaluating miraculous claims in other religions. Sometimes, especially from our non-believing friends, we are challenged as to how we accept our religion’s miracles but reject others. The reading from this week highlighted a couple things I think are worth mentioning. The authors are Charity Anderson and Alexander Pruss.

The first is that no rational persons, whichever religion they find themselves in should believe every miraculous report. My thought from this is that just because one religion or perhaps even several might have legitimate miraculous claims, in no ways means all of them do. This means, just because we believe that miracles do happen, does not mean we believe all or even most reports.

The second point however was interesting to me. Given the idea that a good God does exist, we would not be surprised if we found miraculous reports of his blessing across the world at times to aid a person in need. Thus, we would not have to dismiss all other miraculous reports just because they are not found in “our” religion.

The counter argument against miracles in this chapter (5) was offered by Arif Ahmed. The point he makes is that we need to take into account the unlikely nature of miracles in the first place. He follows an old line of thought from David Hume that given how unlikely they are we should rather believe just about any other explanation than that a miracle did in fact occur. Ahmed thinks this in relation to the Resurrection of Jesus as well. Basically, ignorance, deceit, hallucination etc. is just as believable than an actual resurrection given how unlikely a resurrection is in the first place.

Of course there is much to reply to Ahmed with, such as the kind of evidence given for the resurrection makes it rational to hold to until a better explanation surfaces. Moreover, the discussion on background beliefs is important as well. If there is a God, miracles are possible. If there is no God, then Ahmed seems right, that there are none. Thus, we come back to the question about God’s existence.

https://www.amazon.com/Contemporary-Debates-Philosophy-Religion-Peterson/dp/1119028450/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=contemporary+debates+in+the+philosophy+of+religion&qid=1563994889&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Refreshing Faith

I had a great conversation with two newer young (recently married) people after Church on Sunday. Given my sermon I figured I would get some interesting feedback. What I found in these two was a couple hungry for the truth and deeply in love with their Savior! These two recent converts to The Faith, demonstrated how they are on the front lines of several major forces that work to contravene both the truth of our bodies but also the truth of Jesus Christ. I could not have been more encouraged as they demonstrated their resolve to love people while not giving up the Scriptural truth!

Moreover, they mentioned how they were spending some time with Jehovah’s Witnesses (from here on JW’s) and they really wanted to show them that Jesus is truly God (something JW’s deny). One thing JW’s (and other cult-like groups) do is they have their position handed to them, and then they go on into the Bible (their own fairly changed translation of the Bible) to confirm their already formed beliefs. It is easy to walk into the pages of the Bible and pick verses that already agree with us. But, as Christians we are supposed to take a different route (a more fully human and honest route). We go on into the Bible and begin to form our beliefs from its content and not the other way around. We are not supposed to be building grand echo chambers, but rather a vibrant relationship with God formed on Truth.

Well, enough said there. I was greatly encouraged Sunday (and I have not even mentioned the Baptism’s!!). Let’s be praying for young people like those baptized and those I chatted with to be powerful light bearers in our sometimes dim lit society.

Communion, Children, Leftovers

The Bible does not tell us at what age children can take communion. Thus, churches can work out their own policies as to “when” they are allowed. Here at LWC we let the families choose. If the family desires for their child to have communion with them, even at very young ages, then they should. If the family desires their child to reach a certain ‘age,’ then they should follow their convictions too.

For me personally, I recognize that God’s grace is available to children even if they do not understand everything about the ‘meal’ (read ‘sacrament’). In fact, likely not one of us understands exhaustively this meal. But, that does not deter us from coming forward. What the Bible does make clear is that we should take part in this meal until Christ comes again (1 Corinthians 11:26). We should remember (re-present) the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 22:19). Moreover, we should make sure that wealth/class/other (read ‘social division’) distinctions are dissolved during this meal (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Finally, we should recognize the body of our Lord in this meal (whether literally, symbolically, pre-figural, or cosmically in the church) (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Matthew 26:26-29).

Given my own convictions on the ‘meal’ are quite classic (read sacramental), I don’t like tossing the ‘leftovers.’ Thus, when some young people in the congregation have asked if they could consume the leftover bread and juice, I have given them the freedom to do so. From here on out, it will be done in the Narthex, rather than on the Altar (platform), but I find allowing this very beneficial. For one, there is joy and excitement from these young people over ‘the meal.’ The church has a role to train ‘desires’ to receive something of the Lord’s in a positive way.

One quick story to close. A Lutheran Pastor, Pastor Meyer, told me this years ago. In their tradition they also viewed the meal as a sacrament. Moreover, they used wine (not grape juice). Well, the Pastor’s were required to finish the rest of the wine after the church service. Some were getting tipsy because they poured too much for the congregation and had quite a bit to finish later. What should they do?

At first, they thought they could just pour the leftover wine down the drain. However, that felt too…well…dirty for the sacrament. Then, they decided that the leftover wine would be taken outside and poured out on the ground. A sort of ‘from the ground the grapes brought forth the wine, and to the ground the wine went back into’ motif. However, this was not always exciting in the north where temperatures in the winter can be bitter cold. So, the denomination created a spicket in their buildings that the Pastor can pour the wine into which empties outside on the ground without them ever having to go outside. To say the least, that is interesting. 

For now, we will stick to consuming the leftovers.

-Pastor Isaac

How we got the Bible Audio!

Pentecost Thoughts

Pentecost. Through the centuries there has been a lot of misunderstanding on the original Pentecost and what it means for today! Let’s clear some of the air.

  1. Pentecost is about God and His plan! It’s easy to make it about us, our plan, our ministry preference and our favorite giftings. We should make this season about God, not us and our preferences.
  2. Pentecost is about reuniting the divided nations! Early in Genesis we see the nations divided over language because they became enemies of God. In Pentecost, we see a gift of languages given to reunite what was divided long ago (Pentecost 2). This unique event brought the Gospel to numerous nations all at once who were present in Jerusalem for their large of religious festival.  
  3. Pentecost is about seeking God and not the gifts! One temptation Christians have had over the years is to seek the various gifts of God and not God himself. God gives gifts, but they are meant to point toward him. Let’s not get lost in the gifts, but in the Giver. 
  4. All Christians have the Holy Spirit! I have seen too many Christian Churches who claim to be “Holy Spirit churches” which have a sort of two-tiered caste system. Caste 1 – Christians who (supposedly) have the Holy Spirit (Spirit-filled) and Caste 2 – Christians who (supposedly) do not. I however reject this distinction. All Christians have the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Certainly, various Christians have new and important realizations of God the Holy Spirit in their lives. But, this does not mean they did not previously have the Holy Spirit. “Realization” is a key word for us, because it highlights something in a greater way that is already in one’s life. Moreover, it means we are all still growing and have something to offer each other. 
  5. The Holy Spirit points us to Christ. This is often lost in discussion on the Holy Spirit these days. We talk about signs, wonders, miracles, and missions, but we seldom talk about Christ. There is something slightly off with this. The whole purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point us to Christ (See John 16-17) and then lead us on into Christ’s mission (Acts 1:8 and 2:14-47).  

Pastor Isaac

Georgia’s Abortion Ban -?’s

Georgia passed legislation to ban abortion (with several exceptions) after a heartbeat is detected. Here is one of my responses to someone who was heavily opposed to it passing. and also used ‘race’ in the discussion, which can at times be a bit hard to disentangle. I added a little bit in what is below, for the final post reflected a few earlier ones. The person I was responding to said that this bill was anti-women. She also pointed out that black / brown/ and poor people will be the most affected. Finally, she pointed out that using my religion to force other people to its claims was wrong. Here is my response. 
 
 
1. You are pitting vulnerable women against the vulnerable in the womb. Why does it have to be an either or? Why cannot our laws reflect ways of helping vulnerable women who are pregnant and those in the womb who are vulnerable too? I just don’t think it is an either/or. It’s both/and. Can’t we find a non-violent approach to helping both?
2. You mentioned Christian ideals…but I did not. I actually mentioned science as the basis for why Roe must go. Moreover, I cited a heavily progressive and well attributed ethicist for agreement on that (Peter Singer from Princeton). Therefore, all you could say from my post is that I am pushing science (and those who know a lot about it) on others. Not my religion. Even more, I do not look at this as a religious issue. I look at this as a natural understanding that people are supposed to come to. Whether religious or not. Proof of this is found in the Right to Life movement, which has atheists involved as well as religious folk of many stripes.
3. As I said, there are many things the political parties do that are off the mark. I don’t always agree with everything pro-life bills propose. But, two things to note. The first is, I doubt the white people you pointed out specifically targeted black/brown/poor communities. That is assuming a lot about their intentions that we simply do not have access to. To be sure, you used the word “affected.” This may be the case, but I think it distracts from the point. One can use any socio-economic or minority group and talk about marginalization. In fact, the Pro-life movement often does the same thing when it points out that at least in the past Planned Parenthood clinics used to target black/brown/poor neighborhoods. The point was that black communities were disproportionately helping the abortion industry and lowering their population at the same time. Still, as much as those conversations have value, the distraction is that often this leverage on other moral issues (race) is used to control a distinct moral issue (abortion). It sounds really bad for Planned Parenthood to make a target market of black people. It sounds really bad of these ‘white straight men’ if what you say was part of their intentions. But that never gets to answering if Roe is based on outdated science or not. There simply needs to be a revision of that law in order to reflect how much more we know about womb life and fetology.
4. One more point about color and race. What if we globalize the subject of abortion and think along race lines from a global perspective? Large portions of the world whether South America, Africa, and Asia are opposed to abortion. Now, even this would not determine if it was right or wrong to have an abortion. But, if we want to use race to leverage this discussion one way or the other, then we could just as well do it against abortion.
 

Dear Pro-lifers

The story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” comes to mind. Each time I hear the cry, “Wolf!” I have come running to this slide/picture and found nothing there.  

Is a baby a parasite? Well, no. But, should we worry about the upper biology class photo about comparing fetuses with cancers? Not at all. In fact, reacting to this image is doing a disservice to the Pro-life movement. Here is why.

https://twitter.com/DylanPGriswold/status/1121506690644365312?s=20 

It fails to take into consideration the context. This is a biology class!

We have little to no background information. We don’t have the professor’s lecture. Christians, of all people (and pro-lifers too), complain of being misunderstood. We should not do the same disservice to others. 

We confuse science with morality. On the picture of the slide in question there are no value or moral pronouncements being made. The professor is just teaching. Let’s use a parallel example. Humans are animals. Rational animals to be sure. The comparison is regular in philosophy, science, and even historical theology. Yet, the comparison does not tell us the value of human beings. It says nothing about how we should treat humans. The comparison is fine.

We are buying into a reduction that is not necessarily present. In this example, some are thinking that the slide is saying that fetuses are just/only parasites However, the slide is in no way saying this. Strangely enough, pro-lifers who are jumping on this like it is some sort of “cancer” are betraying a weakness of thought. 

It is hypocritical – The Pro-life movement, and Christianity too, has sometimes tried to get science to speak for itself and not wade into ethical judgments. By making an ethical judgement about an observational comparison (in a class we were not in) means that we are the ones crossing the line. It is not up to the scientists to make the ethical judgements from the standpoint of their own discipline. Science is by nature a descriptive discipline. Ethics is by nature a prescriptive discipline. Each discipline needs to talk with the other, but each side should recognize when it is encroaching on the other.

 We betray a misunderstanding of science – There is a great article from Scientific American on the the studies between cancer and pregnancy and how the body reacts similarly and differently in each case. Moreover, there seems to be much fruitiful research to be done in this area which may help treat cancer. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-pregnancy-help-scientists-better-understand-cancer/?fbclid=IwAR3aTLcjI39oyn0ts0FQoTjUPhvNKENa5OANbmXTaPgRKgbvPI0v0CoEOtw 

I think that Pro-lifers who react to this sort of picture not only miss the point but can be doing the Pro-life movement a disservice. We lose credibility to make moral judgments if we cannot take the time to understand the landscape first. There is no wolf. Let’s hope next time a cry is made the whole town doesn’t stay home. 

Pastor Isaac Fleming

 

 

The Garden, Temptation, and Lent

Used with Permission from https://www.instagram.com/iamnatashabou/

Throughout some of Christian history, The Garden of Eden has been looked at as a “Perfect Place.” Adam and Eve also as “Perfect People.” This interpretation is especially popular in America and Western Christianity. This Perfect View (as I will call it) has one of the most influential theologians in history in its favor. Augustine, who lived in the late 300’s. This man heavily influenced much of Catholic and Evangelical Christian Theology today. The Perfect View is so popular that few people are aware of a more original (and hence earlier too) understanding of the Garden and Adam and Eve.

The more biblical view avoids the word “perfect” and uses the Bible’s own word for the Garden and Adam and Eve. The Bible calls them “Good” (Genesis 1:31), but never perfect. Goodness has more to do with simplicity and basic humanness than it does some heavenly perfection. There are reasons that defining the garden and first humans as perfect should be avoided. Doing so we run into nearly insurmountable difficulties. Among them are 1) How did sin enter a perfect place? 2) How could perfect people choose sin? Perfection makes things hard here. But, the Simple Goodness View can get the job done.

In the Simple Goodness View, humans could not really be perfect at the outset. Humans are species that by definition are a growing and developing kind of thing. The very concept of people or humanness necessitates that they must be able to grow and mature. In other words, Adam and Eve were not pre-downloaded with all the necessary information that they would always need. God had them on a growth track. And, seemingly, the way to grow is to interact with the natural world through decisions. Opportunities to decide can build human maturity. Decisions can make us great vessels for God or corrupted vessels of sin.  

This brings us to the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” This “tree” has much to do with choice. Adam and Eve (because they are human) must have the opportunity to work on their growth. This means decisions. This possibly even means faltering. I myself do not think that God was surprised by Adam and Eve sinning. In my mind, this seems to be a possibility from the outset for all those training for godliness and growing in understanding.

The possibility of temptation is woven into the fabricate of a good world that human creatures get to make decisions in. Tim Bergman mentioned to me on Sunday that he often teaches in his Bible Seminars that temptation is “the thought to satisfy a good desire in the wrong way.” In other words, Adam and Eve’s curiosity and desire to know were good desires, but they were fulfilled in a timing and place that was not good for them. We can say the same thing about our own temptations. For an easy example, the desire to enjoy some chocolate is good. However, if one goes about stealing chocolate to fulfill that desire, or perhaps gorges on it constantly, then we would fault the route of fulfillment.  

Now to us who are also human. Lent reminds us of the good desires of Jesus for food, worship, and trusting in God that the devil wanted to use for evil.  We human creatures get “trees” or opportunities to decide how we will fulfill our desires for good things. Like Jesus, we must order our desires. Will we go about them in good and maturing ways or in detrimental and de-maturing ways? This is the challenge of any Garden. This is the challenge for all humanity. This is the opportunity of Lent!

Is Ash Wednesday Biblical?

Used with Permission from Natasha Bouchette @ https://www.instagram.com/iamnatashabou/

Is Ash Wednesday Biblical? Yes. In what way? In every way. How so? For dozens of verses come together under the heading of this one day that kicks off, perhaps, the most Biblical season of the Church.

Let’s ask a question which might frame this discussion. Is it good for people to come together for an extra day to hear God’s word, sing God’s praises, repent, and begin a corporate fast? YES! These are what Ash Wednesday (and Lent) are about. So, what about those Ashes?

Ashes are to remind us of repentance and mortality. Our forefather Abraham said, “…I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). Joshua and his Elders, “put dust on their heads” (Joshua 7:6). Tamar, who was violated, “put ashes on her head” as she wept through her pain (2 Samuel 13:19). In Nehemiah 9:1 Gods people “were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads…and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.” But wait, there’s more.

Mordecai, whom God used to save Israel, “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry” (Esther 4:1). Two verses later all the Jews did the same (Esther 4:3). It says of Job in 42:6 that he did, “repent in dust and ashes.” For the Prophet Daniel, “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). In the book of Jonah God even accepts the Ninevites King who repents the same way Israel did, “and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes” (Jonah 3:6).  Jesus recognizes the history of God’s people Israel and the validity of that form of repentance by saying, “Woe to you…For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). But wait, there is still more.  

On Ash Wednesday we say, “From dust you came and to dust you shall return.” This exact phrase comes to us from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For out of it you were taken (from the ground). For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Few phrases could be truer. In Genesis 2:7 we learn how we started (dust). In Psalm 103:14-16 we learn our end (back to dust), “For he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone. And its place remembers it no more.” Ecclesiastes 3:20 makes this clearer, “all go to one place; all are from the dust, and all return to dust.”

Let’s be clear here. I do not think that all Christians everywhere for all time are commanded that they must celebrate Ash Wednesday. What I am saying is that any Christian who does (and many who don’t should be open to it), find themselves on footing that goes back to the beginning where people repent with a reminder of ashes and dust nearby. This special day kicks off our super-biblical focus of Christ’s death (see all the Gospels).

The next time someone asks you if Ash Wednesday (or Lent for that matter) is Biblical. You can say, “It most surely is!”

Sunday Sermon – Correction and Expansion

After Sunday morning my wife brought out a few critiques of my sermon. My wife loves history, so when I wade into that realm I usually get more approvals or disapprovals than other weeks :). My wife and I have a good relationship on truth matters. We are both critical of each others thoughts on these matters, and I think this is an important model for the Church as well.

My reason for commenting on some of her thoughts here for everyone else, is because I tend to despise it when preachers and pastors overstep in their preaching. I see this enough and it drives me up a wall. Therefore, when I overstep I try to amend or clarify. We are supposed to be truth people, so we should make it clear when wrong or offering too narrow of a point.

  1. Other Religions – In first service I talked about “our love and relationships” with other religions and our ability to befriend them. I made this comment to make room for my then forthcoming critique of Islam. My wife’s concern was over the word “our.” Living Water does not formally have relations with other religious bodies and people. Therefore, she thought I should say “My” (as in Isaac’s) considering I do. This would not have given a false impression or overexaggerated sense of what Living Water does with other religions.

My Explanation:  I used the word “our” in a way to show that “Christians” do have relationships with other religious groups, and we at Living Water can lead the way. Perhaps I overstepped a bit here and should have been more specific, but there is room for the phrase broadly. Moreover, as a church we have set the tone for our relationships with other religions through our past visits to the Mosque, our invitation of an Atheist to debate in our sanctuary, and our general care when discussing other religious beliefs during questions and answer sessions. Therefore, I felt comfortable drawing on this heritage in speaking for us as a church. Moreover, since we had visitors in the congregation Sunday, my intent was to build a way of discussing a sensitive matter. If those visiting can know that our discussing truth matters is distinct from our treatment of human beings, I think it opens them up to hearing the ideas better.

  1. Slavery and Christians – In discussing slavery on Sunday I made a statement that the Evangelicals and Quakers were the first to start an anti-slavery movement. My wife’s point was that I needed to be more specific (or less) because the anti-slavery movements in Great Britain likely included other kinds of Christians too.

My explanation:

In this case my wife is right. I should have said, “Christians (in general) were the first to start an anti-slavery movement.” This would have encompassed Great Britain’s early beginnings, which was composed of more Christians than just Evangelicals and Quakers which I cited. When I was saying this statement, I was thinking of a quote from the book “What’s So Great about Christianity” by Dinesh D’souza. But, I failed to remember one word. Quaker and Evangelical Christians were the first to start and Anti-slavery movement in “America,” and not outright. Checking the quote again makes that clear.  

The point of this was to say that despite individual Christian’s failures over the centuries, Christianity is the reason for the kind of morality that opposed and worked to end Slavery. This is a tangible sign that Christian moral expression has the strength to achieve great heights and that Christians were the first. My wife was right. Thanks Sweetie.

To develop this even further, it might not hurt to point out that even though slavery was allowed in Old Testament times, the progression of the view that all people are made in the Image of God, made Christians very critical of the practice. In the letter of Philemon in the New Testament, Paul is writing to a slave owner who became a Christian. Paul has been traveling with the slave owners slave for some time in common work for the Gospel. Now, he was supposed to return him, but he is sending him back a bit late. Paul uses a neat rhetorical trick in this letter to affirm the societal rights of the slave over to be a master over him, but then subverts those rights by saying that we all have only one master, the Lord Jesus Christ. For a universally practiced thing like slavery, these are very audacious words thousands of years ago. Christian moral teaching is that all people are made in the image of God, and this is the foundation for why slavery cannot be a Christian practice.   

  1. Islam and Development of Ideas – On Sunday I talked about the difference between the Quran and the Bible. I mentioned how the Quran was a static dictated revelation and the Bible was a progressive revelation. My wife thought that the point may have been too narrow, because there has been some internal updating that took place in the Quran, and thus that looks like progress.

My Explanation: Here is where I stand by my point, but I do want to offer a longer explanation to make sense of what Vachelle is pointing out. It is correct to say that the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, is not a progressive document toward Allah (their word for God). Everything given about Allah is final. In fact, in Islam, it is a great heresy to say that any updating of Revelation can take place for Allah. It is a very important distinction between Christians and Muslims. However, what my wife is referring to is that some factions of Muslims do have an abrogation system. In other words, some Muslims think that some earlier verses have been abrogated/exchanged for later verses.

This abrogation system however has more to do with social mores than it does for the nature or character of Allah. Therefore, I intend my point to be taken about the Quran and Allah himself, and I could have made this a bit clearer on Sunday. Moreover, I also talked about accommodation. Namely, that the God of the universe (and the Bible) has accommodated himself early on, to help people grow in their understanding of him and their own moral development. This is not the case in Islam. Accommodation is not how Allah shows himself in Islamic understanding.

Now, historically speaking, Muhammad the founder of Islam did not get his Revelation all at once. He got it in stages. Moreover, many of the supposed revelations that he got from Allah updated based on the needs or wants that stood before him or his army. So, in the one case they were not allowed to raid caravans, and then in the latter case they were given “new” revelation that allowed them to raid caravans and receive that wealth. In my conversations with Muslims on this development (which to me shows that there was personal views of Muhammad being made into “revelations”) they are not comfortable with the idea of development. The exception to this comes when Muslims are trying to convince Christians who don’t know better to convert.  

Now, let’s talk about Christians for a second.  There are plenty of Christians that have not become comfortable with the idea of progressive revelation in the Bible. Even though historical Christianity and Judaism rely on that as a basic fact of their religion, plenty of Christians act as if the Bible was dictated right from the mouth of God on every word. This is often at the crux of many classes I have taught about Scripture.

The full Christian view of Scripture (the Bible) is that it is truly the product of God and truly the product of humanity simultaneously. This is akin to Jesus Christ himself. Jesus is truly God and truly man simultaneously. Therefore, there are real human elements in the Bible. This is not something to be ashamed of.  It is something to be grateful for. It can make better sense of how we have an updated understanding of who God is through the centuries of Scripture. Moreover, we can offer contextual answers as to why something was written 3500 years ago to make sense of things. Muslims are left with thinking that their book has no or almost no human influence. But, then they are stuck in the insuperable puzzles of making sense of a supposedly “perfect dictation” that changes based on Muhammad’s needs. These are hard logical troubles indeed for them.

Let me lay out some of the other ways that Christians think through the human and divine composition of Scripture.

  1. Sovereignty – one way of thinking through these elements is remembering because God knows everything, he can know who is going to write what and when in advance. Therefore, human authors in their human recordings can actually be bringing about the kind of revelation that God desires in an entirely human way, while it also being what God wanted humanity to know. This perspective based off of God’s foreknowledge is well represented by the great scholar William Lane Craig.
  2. Authorization – One of the largest ways we see God’s Revelation to us in the Bible is by authorization. For example, most of what Moses wrote in the first 5 books of the Bible has to do with him being God’s authorized agent. In other words, God chooses Moses to help lead his people Israel, and what Moses brings about or writes, since he is God’s authorized agent, is also what God brings about. This a bit like the President and the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is not receiving everything the President says in perfect verbatim language or handing it in a verbatim way. However, She/He represents America and the President. What they say, is what the President says. They are operating in the capacity of authorized agent for a greater authority. This can solve the human/divine composition.
  3. Appropriation – Lastly, we come to appropriation. This is kind of a cool way of understanding how some of Scripture can be the product of humanity and God’s product too. Let’s use an example in language regarding the Packers. Perhaps Stephany tells her family, “I am going to the Packer Game this weekend.” Then, her husband Andy, agreeing with the phrase and also happens to be going to the same game, responds, “Me too!” Now, Andy did not literally say, “I am going to the packer game this weekend.” But, he did piggy back (or appropriate) Stephany’s sentence, and make it work for him to say the same thing. God can do the same thing with human authors. They can write some true or accurate about God or deal with a situation in a congregation, and then God can piggy back (or appropriate) it for his causes and make it speak for him. These last two that I mention are well represented by the Philosopher Nicolaus Wolterstorff.

Anyway…this is more than most of you cared to know. But, I think it might help us grow in our understanding of the Bible and other religions too. 

God Bless, Pastor Isaac