How the Early Church Read the Bible

The early church was as thoroughly convinced of the Bible’s historical reliability as modern evangelicals are. Yet, thought Bob, those Christians were in better tune with the way the Bible tells its own story: focusing on images that reveal the repeated patterns of God’s activity.

Interesting, but ‘reliability’ might be open to interpretation.

via How the Early Church Read the Bible | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

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51 Replies to “How the Early Church Read the Bible”

  1. Joel,

    I would not say history in the sense that we use it; I would say that the Church fathers and mothers believed in the full theological reliability of Scripture, in that, everything that the canon says about God is true, and how God acts in human history.

      1. How would they know that everything the canon (i.e. the books that they themselves selected) says about God is true???

        1. Bill, do you have to ‘know’ everything? Isn’t that the element of faith – an answer to the unknown which may or may not be ‘true’? Isn’t faith sometimes the lack of evidence?

          1. No, “faith” is just making stuff up that you would like to be true, but most likely isn’t 🙂

          2. Well, I don’t of course know for sure (I said “most likely”), but when people make claims without evidence about an incredibly complex world that just happen to be things that you realize they would like to be true, and when you realize that there are a billion alternatives to that view, then it becomes quite unlikely.

          3. But, Bill, is that Faith is wrong or the application thereof? I believe Augustine knew that a wrong application of Faith – as if it were science – would make us a lot of fools (or a fool’s lot?). We need to keep Faith, Theology, and our Believe in God where it belongs.

            Can science disprove God? Hardly. Can it disprove faith? Hardly. Can Faith overtake science? Hardly. The two are like the two spheres of the brain – each with its own course and place.

  2. Agreed, science and faith are completely different. One of them can tell us something about reality, the other can’t 🙂

    Of course science can’t disprove something about which we can know nothing.

    My dream is a religion without factual claims, one without “faith”. As long as religion would stick to what it is good at (spirituality, myth, story, ritual, inspiration, etc….) I would consider myself a religious man. I would actually enjoy going to church instead of going to church and putting up with all that nonsense.

    I have never understood why somebody would think their specific faith is correct while all other countless faiths (now and in the past) are not. I sometimes wonder if somebody with a good understanding of the history of religions, of science, of logic, of psychology, of mythology, of ancient literature, would still hang on to his faith. Wouldn’t somebody like that just understand that his faith is just made up like all other faiths are? Maybe not, faiths can be pretty stubborn. Okay, let me then ask you this: Under what circumstances do you think you might consider that you were wrong all along? Is there anything that might happen in the future that would make you reconsider your faith (some event or some “revelation”)?

    And how about this one: Why do you think our Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.. etc… friends are mistaken? Why do you think their faiths are wrong?

    Haha, this is a fun discussion on your Bday 🙂

    1. Bill, I view everything through Christ. We can dive deeper into the Logos of Justin and Origen, but I would rather not at this moment, feeling myself a bit odd at their views.

      I will only know that I was wrong when I pass from this life. I have been wrong, I feel, about a few things in my life of faith – theological, doctrinal, and indeed, wrong in application, but based on experience I have not been wrong about faith altogether. I know that their is a God – morally, philosophically, and indeed, experientially.

      I think that we must make ‘factual claims’ about faith, but they must be understood in a few realms. 1.) First, facts much be made within the realm of faith. ‘I know God exists’ is not a scientific fact. ‘I know God exists’ is a fact of the faith, because without that fact, then what is the point of faith? 2.) We have to be open to the possibility of growth by science in our faith. By this, I mean that we should test all things, and grow. This is not a test of ‘If God is real, then he will do this..’ but a full reliance upon the fact of God and then test our myth, ritual, logic, and views of God. Further, I believe that God has provide His Spirit which can guide us into the path of least resistance. If we come to a point in our theology which says ‘This is not Godly’ then we must be willing to accept that we are not divine, nor do we have the mind/will/logos to make our truth the Truth.

      Science is about finding the physical truth – faith is about finding the spiritual truth. I believe that in some ways, we can use much of what has created science – the human need to know and investigate – to further and solidify our faith. Just as we ask questions and experiment with to discover new scientific truths, I believe that we must individually do the same.

      Regarding the other faiths, my tendency lately has been to leave them alone. According to my faith, they are in error because Christ is the only way. Can I sit in judgment of them? How can I when they don’t purport to believe the same way? Shouldn’t I spend my time correct those who purport to believe the same Christ? Shouldn’t I rather spend my time instead of fighting the other faiths, and instead building up those, and defending those, of my faith against those who wear the sheep’s clothing?

      For me, faith is much more than a belief system, but a daily ritual which unites us to both the Deity and to the shard of the divine, which is us. Take the Communion. It is a memorial, but to what? What can it teach us? What can it remind us? It is a ritual which unites us to Christ and should bring the faith community together. The same with baptism, weddings, feasts, congregational singing and even death.

      I find in my faith in Christ the wealth of all other religions who have tried and failed. In Christ, I can live.

  3. Joel, thanks for your candid reply. I’m sure you realize that I disagree with you on all counts, but there will be more opportunities for me to bug you about your faith 🙂

    Oh, one last bit of nastiness from me: You do realize that if you had been born in (modern) Iran that you would have been a Muslim, don’t you (well, about 99 % probability)? You do realize that if you had been born in 1200 BC in Athens that you would have believed in Zeus and his buddies, don’t you? You’re a really lucky man Joel, that you are one of the priviliged ones to actually get to know Christ! 🙂

    1. Bill, you can disagree, of course, but you are still wrong 🙂

      Yep, I realize that, but I hope that I would have examined other faiths in much the same way I have as being born a Christian.

      1. There is no chance whatsoever that other religions have had an equal chance from you. I’m sure you know religion is also about culture and tradition. It is about living a “Christian life” or living a “Buddhist live”. The Buddhist way has never had a fair chance in your life. Now, if you had been born in Tibet……

        1. Bill, we each have our presuppositions. I have examined other religions, and admittedly, through the veil of Christianity. Because I see the God of Christians as God, I am not sure I could give other religions a balanced view – although I attempt to try (I try to try to try). If I had been born in Tibet…I would be much thinner than I am now. 🙂

          1. hahaha, me too.

            I have no presupposition (I keep trying to emphasize this) other than that “I exist”. Presuppositions cannot be freely picked but are subject to evidence and reason as well.

          2. I dunno, Bill, about your (lack of) presuppositions. Also, as I’ve been thinking. I take it that you were born in a religious household? If so, didn’t you go against that culture and tradition?

          3. In a minority of cases an individual goes against culture and tradition for a variety of reasons. A different religion may appeal for whatever reason or one’s own religion may become objectionable for whatever reason. It has nothing to do with discovering the truth of course.

            Isn’t it interesting that those things for which there is the least evidence (faith) are typically believed in most strongly. People from all faiths in the world “know” they are right.

          4. Do you have a problem with people ‘knowing’ that they are right? Do you not ‘know’ that you are correct? For me, I would rather have faith and feel that I am trying to be correct, but I could be wrong nevertheless.

  4. I don’t have a problem with people saying they know something. I have no problem with primitive religion (well, maybe I do just a bit 🙂 ). I’m sure the ancient Greeks also “knew” there was a Zeus. I’m sure some naive people “know” their child (with some sort of mental disorder) is possessed by a “devil”. I’m sure some people “know” the world was created in six days. I’m sure some people “know” that a dude called Jesus walked on water and was raised on the third day. I’m sure some people “know” that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Perhaps some people also “know” there never was a holocaust. Perhaps some people “know” that Elvis is still alive and living in Charleston.

    1. Will you keep quite about Elvis! That was a secret. 🙂

      I think ‘knowing’ in faith is a bit different than ‘knowing’ in insanity, Bill. Further, the idea of ‘knowing’ absolutely in ‘faith’ almost defeats the purpose of faith, wouldn’t you say?

      I fully know in my faith that Christ is rise and is God. Can I prove it? No. No with any tangible scientific evidence. No matter. However, can you prove mental disorder, yes. Again – science and faith.

      1. Well, I happen to “know” that the ancient Greeks were right. Their gods are still among us. Unfortunately they are just as invisible as your God. Can I prove it? No. Not with any tangible scientific evidence. No matter. It just happens to be my spiritual truth. The gods played around with my cortical neurons, sending me a secret message that they exist. Ever since I can really feel it – in my hart. It all makes sense to me now.

        What’s that? ……… Oh, sorry, a muse just whispered in my ear that I shouldn’t make fun of your faith, because Zeus doesn’t have much of a sense of humor. He demands I sacrifice a goat. Darn, where do I get a goat this late at night?? Hmmm, this muse sounded pretty hot…oops that’s gonna get me in trouble…. better get that goat real quick.

        1. Bill, then I must have some time to convert you from worshiping Zeus!

          That is the idea, however, of transferring unprovable ‘knowing’ such as faith. Scientific knowledge we can generally transfer, but faithful ‘knowing’, not so much. I can tell you, but to show you a personal experience, not so much. Much like love or other human emotions.

          1. and every false faith (if you are right) also comes with “personal experiences” and with “knowing”. We know that people in any faith tradition may be expected to have accompanying “experiences”. That is what can happen when we get personally attached to a religion. Perhaps it is somewhat similar to when we lose a beloved and still experience that person emotionally or spiritually simply because they have now become part of our emotional life. Some Catholics have even “seen” Mary, of course, pretty much as we have pictured her in our art. Hmmm, I wonder why that is so? It’s not any different from those who have “seen” Elvis some time after his (allleged) death. Similar things are going on with religious “feelings” and “revelations”. The brain is a pretty amazingly complex thing.

          2. Yes, it is, Bill. That is the point about ‘knowing’ though – is that in the end, it comes down to faith and hope.

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