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The Inerrant, Infallible Word of God

Many conservative fundamentalist Christians would use my title to describe a book. Ok, maybe not just a book, but THE book. After all, that’s what bible means – book. So when my most conservative friends use this phrase, it is generally used as a way to define the authority with which they view the Bible. In most cases, they go even further to mean a particular English translation of the Bible. If you live in the particular part of Alabama where our family currently resides, with the quantity of very conservatives Churches of Christ, they probably even mean the King James translation in particular.

Many of the liberal Christians I know balk at this phrase. They rebel against it. They reject it. In some cases, they have this reaction because there is some part of the Bible with which they disagree. In other cases, they have been hurt in some way by someone who used the Bible as a club to attempt to get them to submit to God’s will (which usually happens to agree with their will at the time). I hope that some of them react to parts of the Bible where they see conflicting pictures of who God is, and that causes them to think that this book just can’t be that perfect, so they think there is no perfect word of God that hasn’t been offered through some sort of imperfect human filter that has somehow corrupted it.

I want to say clearly and distinctly, I believe in the inerrant, infallible word of God. But I don’t believe it is a book. I believe that word is a person – Jesus of Nazareth, whose story is told in many of the books we have in the Bible. I believe that word has existed since at least the beginning of time. And most of all I believe that Jesus is the unmitigated word of God – unfiltered through any imperfect human being, and we all have access to him (it) through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This does not, however, mean that I believe we should throw out the things the Bible says. It means that any teaching, written or spoken, should be examined through and tested against what we know about Jesus and what he said is important. It means that we should view the Bible as Jesus’ story – that, just as Jesus said, all of scripture points to him, bears witness to him, and is fulfilled by him (not thrown away). It means we should read and listen to the words of the Bible because Jesus studied many of those words, and the ones he didn’t study are the Body of Christ’s attempt to preserve the essence of Jesus’ teachings and bear witness to other teachings that have been revealed through the Holy Spirit since Jesus’ coming.

I know there are uncomfortable things in the Bible. I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that the thought of God commanding the slaughter of every man, woman, child, and animal anywhere gives me pause. I would be lying if I said that any number of the Old Testament laws didn’t seem silly to me. I would be ignoring something that all of my conservative and liberal Christian friends like to fight over, if I didn’t say that the verses thrown around as evidence of God’s disapproval of complete gay love didn’t bother me.

If you are interested in wrestling with these and other difficult issues in the Bible, you could start with giving a listen to a couple of sermon’s I’ve heard recently that I found helpful:

You might want to listen to these more than once. The time was definitely worth it to me.

No matter what you might think about the concept of an inerrant, infallible word of God. I pray these words I’ve written have been helpful to you and that God has somehow spoken through them. I pray they will invite you to read and listen to the words of the Bible, seeing in them the revelation of God’s true word, Jesus Christ. And finally, I pray you will be moved to want to follow him and that you will be blessed.

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Thoughts on Holy Eucharist

Our family has recently made a change in our church membership. We’ve moved from our first real church home as a family, Edgemont United Methodist Church, to a new chapter in our Christian journey at Trinity Episcopal Church as I work on discerning a possible call to the Episcopal priesthood. So far, we’ve been attending the Saturday evening service that is offered as part of the Canterbury ministry at UNA, which is led by the campus chaplain, Callie Plunket-Brewton.

Tonight during the Eucharist, I was struck by two lines in particular from the service. After the priest prays the blessing over the bread and wine, asking God to make them be for us Christ’s body and blood, she prays:

Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace…

Later, after we have shared in the Holy Communion, we pray together:

Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart…

In these two short sentences, we are reminded why we share the holy meal – that we might serve; whom we are to serve – namely God (the you in the prayers); how we are to serve – in unity, constancy, and peace, and with gladness and singleness of heart; and we pray for God’s help in the form of strength and courage to accomplish our service.

The first of these prayer fragments reflects three crucial tenets of our service to God. The very word we use to describe the meal we share, Communion, calls to mind the first of these tenets: unity. This blessed Sacrament unites us with brothers and sisters throughout the world today and through time to the beginning of the Church. It has been our constant practice since Jesus instituted it before he died. And when we partake of it in remembrance of Him, we find the peace for which we later pray.

After eat the bread and drink the wine, we pray for strength and courage to serve. I haven’t often thought that it would take strength and courage to serve. Service that is freely offered is rarely refused. How much strength and courage could really be needed? But to serve God with gladness and singleness of heart – that might take some real strength, and to do it in a world that is less and less inclined to look favorably on such a motive could take courage. When we aren’t serving for our own credit, but rather God’s glory, we might need some of that strength and courage. In order to push out all those other motives that prompt us to serve – to make ourselves feel good or look good, or even just to get into heaven, we might need some of that strength and courage. In order to have our heart singly focused on God and not our own desires, I know we will need that strength and courage.

I don’t know why those two lines jumped out at me tonight – maybe it’s because I’ve started on the real path of discernment. Each day I take another step that makes it more real. Each day I question whether or not I want to put my wife and children through the trial of the process and the uncertainty of the whole thing. Each day I wonder if I’ll be able to even get through it all before I’m too old to have enough energy to serve God as He deserves to be served or to have an effective ministry. Those seem like pretty good reasons to me for two little lines in the prayers to speak. Now I just have to really listen.

And so I pray, sanctify me that I may faithfully serve you in unity, constancy, and peace, and send me now into the world in peace, and grant me strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart. Amen.

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