It is incredible to me that I can call you friends and mean it in the truest sense of the word. My family just returned home from dinner with two of you who we first met online in January. Our friendship is young, but I believe it will last. We’re starting to get to know each other—to talk about more than what we talk about here. Russell ordered two consecutive entrees and two simultaneous desserts, and we stayed until restaurant staff glared at us. Almost two and a half years ago, I wrote a letter to a believing acquaintance. That led to a family friendship, and ultimately to a blog community and a growing local community. Months ago, my vulnerability in this online setting led me to meet with two internet strangers. Suddenly, they’re across the table from me over a spontaneous Thursday night meal planned only 2 and a half hours before—because we’re friends. We’ve made other friends, too. Two other former internet strangers have become precious to us. He finalized his will before they met us in person for the first time months ago—just in case we were dangerous. One week ago, they made me smile when I didn’t think it was possible. Somehow, vulnerability has made me less vulnerable. Taking a risk made me safer. Letting my guard down over recent years and months has made me feel invincible.
Perhaps that is why I attend a Wednesday night discussion group at a Baptist church. My vulnerability—both with believers and non-believers—has been hugely rewarding. I’m now addicted to the thrill of taking risks and winning big. The thought of one risk still makes me tremble—the thought of being completely honest before my parents and siblings. I know the day must come, and I gather strength for it through all of you here—and perhaps someday through new friends who can enter my life as I tear down my walls. When I attend discussions on Wednesday night, I’m not there to say “You’re wrong.” I’m there to say “This is who I am. Will you love me? Will you stand with me?” Seeking safety by taking risks. Perhaps it will backfire on me someday. Even still—it is a privilege to call you friends.
What follows is Week 3, part 2 of a local church’s Wednesday evening discussion group over The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. This week’s discussion is on the trustworthiness of scripture. You can catch up on part 1 of week 3 here and you can read about the first two weeks’ discussions on my husband’s blog.
“Do you want to rely only on what you can see and know around you, or do you want to put your faith in this book that the God we trust has given to us, whether we agree with it all or not?”
No one answered her question. The pastor moved on and showed a video clip from the previous week’s sermon to introduce a new question for discussion. He spoke of the Bible’s composition—66 books, 40 known authors, and one divine author. He asked why we stand on this book and why we consider it holy. This led to the question for discussion—the question Christians hope no one will ask: “How can you base your faith on one book?”
As one who asks questions, I was surprised to hear that this is one Christians would rather not encounter. That question has never occurred to me. If anything, scripture would be easier to accept if it were one coherent book. If skeptics are asking this question, they can do better. If Christians are using this question in preparation for engaging skeptics, they can do better. I didn’t speak up, and enthusiastic answers followed. If anyone is interested in the transcript, I took thorough notes and can provide it by email—I actually typed it out with my thoughts and decided not to include it here. I personally don’t enjoy using the line-by-line response tactic my husband often employs.
The discussion following this question initially centered on the composition of the Bible, with the consensus being that we can trust it because so many people (presumed to be eyewitnesses) gave such a coherent message. We can trust it because so many of these authors said the same thing without collaboration. We can trust it because of prophecies fulfilled.
I had unspoken responses to each of these reasons to trust, and I did not offer them—I’m not sure why I was silent. The conversation did move quickly and with passion. If I had responded, I would have said that, to my knowledge, there is not a scholarly majority that suggests that scripture contains any eyewitness accounts of Jesus (beyond Paul’s claim). Furthermore, evidence that is tangible and repeatable would mean more to me than testimony. I also would have said that I question that the Bible does not contain collaboration. We see many examples of exact wording used in different books of the Bible. Is plagiarism so miraculous? And what of prophecies fulfilled? The words “to fulfill what was spoken” give me pause—the writers of the New Testament had access to the prophecies and likely the motivation to make them apply.
At the end of the discussion following the video clip, the pastor made a statement that seemed almost like a retreat, although I don’t think this was his intent—he heard no opposition to these claims about scripture and wouldn’t have had a need to step back from his support of it. He said, “The truth is, we don’t base our life on the Bible as Christians. We base it on Jesus Christ. The Bible points us to him, but our lives are based on Jesus Christ—who affirmed the authority of scripture.”
So even if we can tear scripture apart, we still have a solid foundation in Christ. But why? How do we know him except through these words I cannot trust? I wish I had spoken—but I fear rejection, and I fear it far more than being wrong. Even worse, I fear silence. What if there are no satisfactory answers? Do I risk hopelessness if I ask?
For the next question presented, I made a personal vow to speak up. I’m all in, even at the risk of losing my reputation—and even at the risk of losing my hope. Tomorrow, I’ll write about the last part of this week’s discussion—the part where I found my voice.
I’m taking a risk with my honesty there. This one thought presses me onward: Perhaps keeping my struggle to myself for fear of rejection or unsatisfactory answers is a way of choosing hopelessness—and I would much rather risk it than choose it.